Waiting until Christmas to consummate a deal is nothing new for the Boston Red Sox, or for Scott Boras clients, so when Mark Teixeira said recently that he hopes to know where he'll be playing by the time he unwraps his gifts, he's about on schedule.
Teixeira could make a decision at any time between now and Dec. 25, of course, but the record suggests there will be more jockeying before the free-agent first baseman ends the bidding. Red Sox owner John W. Henry, CEO Larry Lucchino and GM Theo Epstein flew to Dallas to meet with Teixeira and Boras on Thursday night in an effort to close the deal. A highly placed source didn't think the meeting would end with an agreement, although it is possible the Red Sox would want an answer soon.
The Los Angeles Angels, Teixeira's last team, have not budged off the eight-year offer they made Teixeira last week at the winter meetings, one for at least $160 million, and a source said they aren't likely to do so. Baltimore Orioles president Andy MacPhail, whose team reportedly offered a seven-year, $150 million deal, said this week that his club has some "flexibility,'' a signal they expect to up their ante. The Washington Nationals, 102-game losers in 2008, have been told by Boras, according to a source, that their offer will have to outdistance the others – by how much is unclear – if they expect Teixeira to sign with them.
Henry, meanwhile, said this week his team's offer will not go to 10 years, a term floated early in the process by Boras, and while the Red Sox have done a good job of keeping their offer secret, they have consistently demonstrated in the past a willingness to pay (a $51 million posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka, a $70 million, five-year deal for J.D. Drew) what it takes to get their man. Would they go as high as $25 million a year for Teixeira? That idea was called "ridiculous" by one Red Sox executive.
The Yankees, meanwhile, remain on the edges, having already spent over $240 million on two pitchers, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, but with deep enough pockets should they decide to add the market's most expensive bauble. Perhaps the most appealing aspect to the Yankees of signing Teixeira is that they would be depriving the Red Sox of their most highly sought target. And it's not as if the Red Sox could turn around and sign the next-best free-agent hitter, because his name happens to be Manny Ramirez.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will forge ahead with negotiations, and perhaps again will demonstrate their a knack for holiday deal-making. In 2003, general manager Theo Epstein spent Thanksgiving dinner at Curt Schilling's house to hammer out a new contract that put Schilling in a Red Sox uniform. Two years later, with Epstein on hiatus as GM, the Red Sox and Marlins on Thanksgiving finalized the deal that brought pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston while sending budding superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez to Florida.
Boston's Christmas shopping has been even more extensive.
In 2002, Epstein, newly hired as GM, was in Nicaragua just before Christmas trying to close a deal for Cuban defector Jose Contreras. An Epstein lieutenant, Luis Eljaua, now with Pittsburgh, bought up all the rooms in the boutique hotel in which Contreras was staying in an attempt to freeze out the Yankees. That effort failed; the Yanks announced on Christmas Eve 2002 that they had come to term with Contreras, and Epstein was dogged by reports (which he vehemently denied) that he'd busted the furniture in his room when learning Contreras had picked pinstripes.
In 2003, Epstein and the Red Sox tried to pull off a swap of superstars Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, a trade that had a companion piece, one in which Boston icon shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and reliever Scott Williamson would have been traded to the White Sox for All-Star slugger Magglio Ordonez. But the union balked at the restructuring of Rodriguez's contract, the Red Sox could not satisfy demands from Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks on how much of Ramirez's contract they would pay. Two days before Christmas, Hicks declared the deal "totally, totally dead.'' Less than two months later, on Valentine's Day, A-Rod was dealt to the Yankees.
Four years ago on Christmas Eve, the Red Sox announced they'd come to terms with their captain, Jason Varitek, on a four-year, $40 million deal that kept the switch-hitting catcher in Boston. Varitek, a Boras client who also is receiving interest from the Mets and the Red Sox, looks like he'll be making another holiday-eve decision.
Three years ago, in 2005, the Red Sox lost center-field heartthrob Johnny Damon to the Yankees in pre-Christmas bidding that took a bitter turn when the Red Sox felt they were duped at the last minute by Boras. According to the club, Boras told them that he had a five-year, $65 million deal in hand, one that trumped the four-year $40 million offer that Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had made early in December, one to which he'd attached a Christmas Eve deadline.
The Red Sox, upon learning of the supposed five-year deal, elected not to improve their original offer. Imagine their surprise when they learned that Damon had signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees, one which GM Brian Cashman had termed a "take it or leave it" proposal.
A few days after Christmas that year, another Boras client courted by the Red Sox, pitcher Kevin Millwood, signed a five-year, $60 million deal with Texas.
So now, Christmas again looms just days away. Boras is open for business; the last-minute shoppers are poised to strike.