The Yankees have had their $140 million sitting out there for a while, so maybe it's time they come off CC Sabathia and get after Mark Teixeira, the same way the Angels are hedging Sabathia against Teixeira, the way the Red Sox are hedging Teixeira against a batting order showing the first signs of wear.
As of Thanksgiving eve, it was beginning to look as though somebody was going to bid a lot of money on an undisputed ace or a young-ish and legit cleanup hitter, and then (assuming that's not the Red Sox) get Manny Ramirez instead.
Not so terrible, really, considering that for a short period – two, maybe three years – neither Sabathia nor Teixeira will produce like Manny nor draw crowds like Manny.
Scott Boras represents Ramirez and Teixeira. Asked about the market out there – the global economic woes and all – Boras hardly seemed concerned.
“Twelve teams need a player who can hit third, fourth or fifth,” he wrote. “Tex and Manny control the talent needs of most clubs. Only six free agents drove in 80 or more runs in '08, so we know the demand is high.”
Unanswered, how many of those dozen clubs possess the financial wherewithal – and nerve – to go eight or more years on Teixeira, or to go four or more years on Manny, or to do Sabathia and one of those hitters. The guess here: Only the Yankees (who might not stop there, either). Angels owner Arte Moreno is sick over the team's recent October flame-outs, but won't go that big, not until they get a better read on Vladimir Guerrero.
So, Sabathia seems unwilling to jump at the Yankees' offer (the one that will make him the highest-paid pitcher of all time), and is waiting on the Angels, whose offer could compensate him similarly, and the Dodgers, who are somewhat more reluctant. Meanwhile, the Angels and Teixeira are locked in a negotiation that would seem to reflect Moreno's style – along with Boras's. Neither is giving up much yet.
As one GM said about a week ago, “You make an offer now, you're just setting the basement offer for everybody else.”
That said, the Angels do not view Teixeira and Sabathia as interchangeable. They much prefer Teixeira, who helps solve their offensive inconsistency. In a lineup of free swingers, Teixeira slowed down games for the Angels, and even appeared to have an influence on Guerrero, free-ist of them all. And Moreno is very involved in those negotiations.
Other than the Ryan Dempster slam dunk in Chicago, baseball's offseason has held little of consequence. There are closers on every street corner, so many the Mets are considering getting themselves two. Internally, they've kicked around the idea of Trevor Hoffman along with Brian Fuentes, though surely neither would lower themselves to pitch the eighth inning. The idea likely died at the conversation stage.
Shortstops fill the airways; Rafael Furcal returned to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, sufficiently impressed there is more to Oakland than the trip from the team hotel to the ballpark. Furcal apparently was most impressed with the hills above the city and the deer that roamed a golf course there. He and his agent, Paul Kinzer, lunched Tuesday with the A's – GM Billy Beane, assistant GM David Forst, manager Bob Geren – but haven't yet done much in the way of negotiating.
Kinzer's got strong interest from the two Bay Area clubs and peripheral interest, he said, from two other clubs, neither of which is the Dodgers.
“I don't know if they're including us,” Kinzer said.
The two unnamed teams, he added, “They have to make some moves first.”
The Braves, who were engaged in the Jake Peavy talks and should be again at some point, likely would be one.
• Perhaps the Angels – and not the Yankees – will push this winter, at least in the early stages. First off, Moreno isn't the hang-around type. Second, the Angels are leaving a lot of people watching the Teixeira negotiations. If they don't sign Teixeira, not only will they make a run at Sabathia, but a closer as well, and not necessarily Francisco Rodriguez. Fuentes is an option. If the Mets sign Fuentes, the Angels might come in low on Rodriguez and hope the flooded market means he'll accept a smaller deal.
• Casey Blake's agent, Jim McDowell, continues to converse with the Indians, Twins and Dodgers, all of whom like Blake as a third baseman. A handful of peripheral teams, those that view Blake as an outfielder or multi-position player, also are sniffing around.
• The Dodgers are not open to trading for shortstop Jack Wilson, at least not until the Pirates agree to swallow a huge chunk of that contract ($7.85 million guaranteed for 2009 season and the 2010 buyout) and Wilson agrees to hit again. They have the same issue with Andy Pettitte the Yankees have: He wants too much money for a pitcher who will be 37 in June and just posted his worst ERA in almost a decade, in large part because of a horrible second half. “A longshot,” one Dodgers official called it. Another veteran left-hander the Dodgers aren't excited about: Randy Johnson. It's a maybe, at best, and only as a distant resort.
• Rich Aurilia intends to continue his career. The Giants and Dodgers have shown interest in him as a super utility-type guy, though both are looking at other parts first. Aurilia's main competition in that role could come from Mark Loretta.