12/23/08 8:48 PM EST
Yanks feel fortunate to land Teixeira
Move delivers a convincing warning to the American League East
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
"The one thing that I think today represents," Cashman said that day, trumpeting the arrivals of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, "is just another example of that we're going to keep swinging for the fences."
Boy, did they ever. In a covert move that stunned the baseball world, the Yankees swooped in on Tuesday and snatched one more gift for their holiday season, locking in Mark Teixeira with an eight-year, $180 million deal.
There will likely be one more day of celebration at the grand old ballpark. Not only were the Yankees able to land their two top pitching prizes, they now have the slick-fielding, switch-hitting Teixeira to bolster their offense and provide protection for three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez.
That kind of reinforcement didn't come cheaply, as the Yankees have spread $423.5 million among three players, but the organization is hoping the investment will pay immediate dividends.
"It's absolutely shocking to me, but it's great news," hitting coach Kevin Long said. "Obviously, we've got the resources to go out there and come through like [Cashman] has come through. It's exciting.
"You look around baseball, and you see where everyone is, and the New York Yankees have got to be considered a favorite at this point. ... I tip my hat to Brian Cashman and all he's done. Overall, as an organization, we feel really good about ourselves right now."
Less than 24 hours before Teixeira became his teammate, Derek Jeter had opined that Cashman did plenty in simply adding Sabathia and Burnett to the mix. In fact, Jeter said, "Anything else they do now is just a bonus."
"I think we have a pretty good lineup," he said. "I don't think scoring runs really has been the issue we've had the last few years. I think we've scored plenty of runs."
So imagine the production that could result from tacking on Teixeira, who hit .358 with a .449 on-base percentage and a .632 slugging percentage for the Angels down the stretch last season, batting in front of Vladimir Guerrero.
"Originally, going into it with CC and Burnett, I thought we were good," Long said. "Having somebody of Mark Teixeira's caliber and talent certainly makes things look a lot easier. To have somebody in the middle of our lineup, to put Teixeira there, it certainly helps us out a great deal.
"He's an impact player, he's a superstar. Year in and year out, he's been able to put up huge numbers. We should feel very fortunate that we got somebody of his caliber."
Outfielder Brett Gardner agreed, calling Teixeira "one of the best hitters in the game."
"He's a Gold Glove defensive first baseman and a very, very good middle-of-the-lineup guy," Gardner said. "He's a switch-hitter who hits for power with a lot of RBIs. I'm sure that he's going to be protecting Alex, or vice versa.
"With those two guys in the middle of the lineup, plus everyone else we have surrounding them, it should be a pretty exciting year for the Yankees. Hopefully, I'm going to be a part of it."
Gardner noted that Teixeira's arrival likely changes the landscape of the Yankees' lineup somewhat. Nick Swisher had been tentatively installed as the starting first baseman, but the addition of Teixeira could shift him to a corner outfield role, which in turn may push Johnny Damon to center field.
The Yankees could also now try to unload Damon, Hideki Matsui or Xavier Nady to clear room, or perhaps jettison Swisher, who was obtained in November from the White Sox.
"I still expect some changes to be made between now and Spring Training," Gardner said. "The numbers just don't all add up, and I'm one of the people that will probably be affected by that. I don't know what to expect. I guess I'm fortunate that I don't have to worry about it and make those decisions."
No matter how room is cleared, the acquisition of Teixeira has delivered a convincing warning to the rest of the AL East that the Yankees are ready to shake up the division's structure.
"Hopefully, we can send a message once the season starts by what we do on the field," Gardner said. "No matter who we go out and sign, we're not the team to beat. We feel like the Red Sox and the Rays are, with the seasons they had last year. They've earned the right, and hopefully, we come in and have a good Spring Training to mesh together as a team."
Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett make for a terrific trio to see gift-wrapped under the Yankees' tree, with Christmas Eve just one day away, but Long said that the real work is just around the corner.
"It raises the bar," Long said. "It basically tells everybody that we've got to all do our part, and everybody needs to do what we're capable of doing. This certainly should enable us to get into the playoffs and be a favorite throughout the playoffs.
"Potential is a scary thing, because you have to step up -- it doesn't mean a thing until you go out and perform. We look great on paper, but we have to come together and jell as a team, and become a team as quickly as possible."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.