In a bold move that at one point Thursday appeared to be the beginning of the end of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, Red Sox executives flew all the way to Texas to try to hammer out a contract with the switch-hitting slugger.But when the day full of plot twists and swirling reports had ticked away, the end was not in sight. In another intriguing shift, the Red Sox apparently have taken themselves out of contention for Teixeira, likely leaving the Angels, Nationals and Orioles to duke it out for the first baseman's services, while with a player of this magnitude, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Yankees or even the Red Sox could re-enter the discussion. Reported at one point Thursday to be on the threshold of an agreement with Scott Boras, Teixeira's agent, the Red Sox did more than just say no. They appeared to say no way.
In an e-mail to members of the Boston media sent by Red Sox principal owner John Henry on Thursday night, he explained the club's position: "We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."
Boras also released an e-mail statement about the day's events: "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."So ended a day that began with one team -- the Orioles -- still claiming a rightful place in the sweepstakes after being reported to be falling out of them. Nobody figured that by the end of the day, the front-runner would be pulling up and exiting the race -- or at least giving that impression. And anybody who's still in the race is ready to keep on running. "All day there's been so much speculation. All I can say is he's still our priority," Angels GM Tony Reagins said when informed of the latest twist. "That's unchanged." That may be about the only thing that's unchanged after Thursday. Boston has been rumored for several weeks to be the leading suitor for Teixeira, who spent the second half of the 2008 season with the Angels. Even if the Red Sox are calling Boras' bluff on those "other offers" as some have suggested, Thursday was a game-changer. Early in the day, it became clear that reports of the Orioles' demise in the quest for Maryland's native son were exaggerated. Orioles president Andy MacPhail expressed his belief to the Baltimore Sun that the team was still in the race, adding that it would consider increasing its original offer. It was reported as a seven-year proposal between $140 million and $150 million.
"We have indicated before that we have flexibility," MacPhail said. "I don't think anyone expects [Boras] to lean over and accept the first proposal.
"If they came back to us and told us what it would take and we thought that it made sense for us, then yes [the initial offer could be expanded]."
A report on ESPN.com on Wednesday suggested that the Orioles likely had fallen out of contention for the slugging first baseman unless it was his strong preference to return home."Until we are told he is signing somewhere else," MacPhail said, "I don't think you can take yourself out of it." That act of signing somewhere else, many seemed to think as Thursday wore into the evening, was about to happen in, of all places, Texas -- where Teixeira began his Major League career and had turned down an eight-year, $140 million offer in 2007. The first news of the Red Sox meeting with "Teix" in Texas on Thursday came from WCVB-TV in Boston. According to the station's initial report, the Red Sox raised the ante to an estimated $184 million package spread across eight years, averaging $23 million per year. Soon thereafter, an ESPN report agreed that the meeting was taking place and cited sources saying the deal could be worth closer to $22 million per year if it came to pass. And Yahoo! Sports reported that the offer was for closer to $160 million, and that the $184 million report was said by a source close to the negotiations to be incorrect.
By the time the reports of the Red Sox being on the Texas trail to signing Teixeira had fully circulated, the Red Sox made their statement and shook up the sweepstakes again.Immediately, thoughts of the Red Sox calling Boras' bluff emerged. Remember, the Red Sox and Boras butted heads in California two winters ago over Daisuke Matsuzaka before eventually coming to terms. And that was after the Yankees signed Boras client Johnny Damon away in 2005 following contentious bidding. It was not disclosed whose offers Henry was referring to when he concluded that Boston was "not going to be a factor" for Teixeira. The Angels and Nationals both presented eight-year proposals to Teixeira reported to be in the $160 million range, in addition to the Orioles possibly sweetening their offer to be in that range. The Yankees have been reported to have interest but a Newsday report on Thursday quoted a source saying, "We're monitoring the situation, but we have not made an offer. We may not make an offer. If the money gets too rich, then we won't." Boras initially indicated he was seeking a 10-year, $200 million contract for the slugger who began his career with the Rangers in 2003 and has 203 homers and 676 RBIs in six seasons with a .290 career average.
There has been widespread speculation that Teixeira, whose wife is from Atlanta, prefers to sign with an East Coast team. But the player has never confirmed that, and he left Angels management with the perception that he thoroughly enjoyed his three months with the club. Teixeira, who turns 29 on April 11, flourished with the Angels, offensively and defensively. Batting third in front of Vladimir Guerrero, he elevated the entire offense, hitting .358 with a .449 on-base percentage and a .632 slugging percentage. Teixeira delivered 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games for the Angels, reaching 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs for the fifth consecutive season with a combined 33 homers and 121 RBIs and batting .308.He continued to swing a hot bat in the American League Division Series, hitting .467 with seven hits and four walks, but the Angels fell to the Red Sox in four games. It was Teixeira's first exposure to postseason play. It probably won't be his last. He might lead a team to the playoffs next October, for all anybody knows. What nobody knows now is what team that will be, especially after Thursday. Leave it to a baseball lifer to explain it all. "You hear so many different things from day to day," MacPhail said in the Sun report. "Yesterday we were the favorites, today you are out. You learn to ignore it and deal with the facts as they become available to you."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.