Red Sox engage in Tex-book tactics

Gordon Edes

The Boston Red Sox have offered free agent Mark Teixeira an eight-year deal worth a tick under $170 million, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said Saturday. So, if agent Scott Boras was truthful two days ago in a meeting with Red Sox brass, either the Angels, Orioles or Nationals have an offer on the table for $170 million or more.

Red Sox owner John W. Henry emerged from the meeting Thursday night with Teixeira and Boras all but declaring that Boston was out of the running for the switch-hitting first baseman. However, few believe the Red Sox have really turned their backs on their top offseason target.

Evidently the gamesmanship on both sides is spiking faster than the actual dollar figures. The Angels and Nationals each offered eight years and $160 million, according to published reports, while the Orioles have offered seven years and $140 million to $150 million.

However, Orioles president Andy McPhail said he is "flexible," indicating that he would up the ante. Should the Orioles add an eighth year, the total dollars could reach $170 million. The Red Sox are privately worried that the Orioles could be the team that ultimately ponies up the most money.

For now, the Red Sox are waiting on Boras, who presumably is making the rounds to the other suitors, trying to ratchet up the price for perhaps the last time. Clearly, Boston decision-makers believed their offer of $21 million a year – which outdistances the $161 million deal pitcher CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees at the winter meetings – was ample.

"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Henry wrote in an email immediately after the meeting, held at Teixeira's home in Texas. "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

It was a stunning turnabout after it appeared the Red Sox had become the leaders in the chase for the 28-year-old slugger. Henry, CEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein traveled to Dallas for the meeting, in which they were told by Boras that Teixeira had received an offer from another club better than the one they had presented.

Boras offered his impression of the meeting in an email to Yahoo! Sports reporter Tim Brown: "The Boston ownership was kind enough to request and travel to meet with Mark Teixeira. While it was a very positive meeting, Mark was candid and advised he is in the process of making a decision and is now attempting to eliminate teams."

Henry said earlier in the week that the Red Sox would not offer Teixeira the 10-year deal Boras said he was seeking, and indications are that the Red Sox are unlikely to go beyond eight years.

Are the Red Sox calling Boras' bluff? It wouldn't be the first time.

In 2006, negotiations to sign another Boras client, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, appeared to have reached a dead end after all-night meetings in California when the agent informed Epstein that Boston's offer was unacceptable. Epstein told the agent that he would be flying back to Boston that morning, with or without Matsuzaka. If Matsuzaka wanted to pitch for the Red Sox, he had to be on that plane, Epstein said. About a half hour before Epstein's plane was to depart, Boras called, informing him that the Japanese pitcher was en route.

The unknown factors to the Red Sox in the Teixeira negotiation are whether offers from competing teams could rise. The Angels, Teixeira's last team, have not budged off the offer they made at the winter meetings, and a team source said it isn't likely to increase. Teixeira enjoyed his two months with the Angels but would prefer to play on the East Coast for family reasons.

The 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. The Orioles, the closest to a hometown team for Teixeira, could now be the favorite if they bumped up an offer beyond $170 million either shortly before or after the Red Sox-Boras summit.

The Red Sox probably feel that Teixeira doesn't really want to play in L.A. and would be hard-pressed to sign with either the perennially mediocre Orioles or Nationals, even though he grew up near Baltimore. In fact, Teixeira probably would demand an opt-out clause after two or three seasons to sign with any of those teams.

Boston, however, is on the East Coast and the Red Sox are a consistent winner, seemingly making them the best fit. Clearly, Henry and the rest of the Boston brass don't feel inclined to increase their bid just because Boras told them he had a better offer, which a source said the agent did say in the meeting.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also met with Teixeira earlier this month, but that was before the Yankees committed more than $240 million to sign pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, so it appears unlikely they would make a grab for Teixeira as well. The Red Sox do not believe the Yankees are in play, although it must be an appealing idea to Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman to sign the player most coveted by the Red Sox.

Before the Thursday night meeting, a Red Sox source said it was not a "take it or leave it" scenario. The intention was for Teixeira to hear directly from the team's decision-makers where their offer stood.

Teixeira, who turns 29 on April 11, has averaged more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his six big-league seasons, while posting a .919 OPS and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. The Red Sox envision him as a middle-of-the-lineup presence to offset last July's departure of Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. If Teixeira did sign with the Red Sox, they would move All-Star Kevin Youkilis from first to third base while looking to trade third baseman Mike Lowell, the 2007 World Series MVP.

Boras also represents free-agent catcher Jason Varitek, the Red Sox captain who declined an offer of salary arbitration from the team. Boston has not made another offer to Varitek since, though the sides continue to talk. A third Boras client, free-agent pitcher Derek Lowe, also is of interest to the Red Sox, but they have not made him an offer and are expected to do so only if he drops.

The history of Red Sox dealings with Boras is long and colorful. Boras became Ramirez's agent last year and stood to earn a commission only if the dreadlocked slugger was able to extricate himself from club options the Red Sox held for 2009 and 2010. Ramirez's obstinate behavior resulted in a midseason trade to the Dodgers, and a condition of the deal was that the Dodgers would drop the club options. When Ramirez signs this offseason, Boras will get his commission.

Three years ago, 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 Lucchino had made early in December, one to which he had 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 Cashman had termed a "take it or leave it" proposal.

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 shortstop and Boston icon Nomar Garciaparra and reliever Scott Williamson would have been traded to the White Sox for All-Star slugger Magglio Ordonez.

Rodriguez, a Boras client, signaled his desire to play for the Red Sox and agreed in private meetings with Henry a willingness to redo his contract to make the deal work. 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, and Boras and Lucchino clashed publicly.

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.

Last month, while watching his alma mater Georgia Tech play football, Teixeira said he hoped to know by Christmas where he'd be playing next season. Working on a deal until Christmas is nothing new for the Red Sox, and perhaps that patience will result in signing Teixeira without bidding against themselves.

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, 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.

Four years ago on Christmas Eve, the Red Sox announced they'd come to terms with Jason Varitek on a four-year, $40 million deal that kept the switch-hitting catcher in Boston. 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, Teixeira awaits his payday, and the Red Sox stand with their faces pressed to the window, vowing not to blink.