© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
12/23/08 9:20 PM EST
Rangers saw Teixeira deal coming
Club suspected Yanks would be slugger's eventual suitor
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers knew long ago that Mark Teixeira was going to command a hefty price once he reached free agency. They also suspected long ago that Teixeira might eventually end up in pinstripes.
That ultimately proved to be the case on Tuesday, when Teixeira, who finished the past season with the Angels, agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees.
"Better New York than Anaheim, from our perspective," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Tex is a tremendous player who put himself in a tremendous position to be one of the top free agents in the game and get a handsome reward for it. The Yankees are going to have a pretty formidable lineup."
Teixeira's road to New York began with the Rangers. He was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, and his $4.5 million signing bonus (part of a $9.5 million overall deal) is still the highest given to a Rangers Draft pick.
Teixeira, after being switched from third to first base, made the Rangers' Opening Day roster in 2003 and developed into one of the top young hitters in the game.
In his first four seasons with the Rangers, Teixeira batted .282 with a .534 slugging percentage and an average of 94 runs, 35 home runs and 112 RBIs per season. He won two Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger Awards and was an All-Star in 2005.
He was part of a run of outstanding young infielders produced by the Rangers, and he played alongside Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Ian Kinsler. But he was the only one of those four who did not sign a long-term contract with the Rangers early in his career.
Instead he moved steadily toward free agency, and it escaped few peoples' notice that he would be on the market at the same time Jason Giambi's contract with the Yankees would be up. Rangers owner Tom Hicks made one last attempt to sign Teixeira in July 2007, presenting him with an eight-year, $140 million contract offer. It was turned down.
That prompted the Rangers to trade Teixeira. They ultimately sent him to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The Rangers also included reliever Ron Mahay in the deal.
"Looking back, our owner really made a very strong offer to keep Mark in Texas," Daniels said. "When the offer was rejected, it was clear what we had to do. With the young players we got in return, we still have a chance to have three or four building blocks for a championship club in years to come."
Saltalamacchia, after Gerald Laird was traded to the Tigers, goes into Spring Training as the leading candidate to be the Opening Day catcher. Harrison made his Major League debut with the Rangers this past season and was 9-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts. At this point, he is the Rangers' No. 3 starter going into Spring Training.
Feliz and Andrus are clearly two of the Rangers' top Minor League prospects. Feliz, 20, was 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA in 27 starts between Class A Clinton and Double-A Frisco. In 127 1/3 innings, he allowed 89 hits and walked 51 while striking out 153. The hard-throwing right-hander is expected to be invited to Spring Training.
Andrus, who was in big league camp this past spring, spent all of 2008 with Frisco and batted .295 with a .350 on-base percentage, 82 runs scored and 54 stolen bases. Andrus, 20, is also considered a premium defensive shortstop by just about anybody who has seen him play.
Jones, who was added to the deal late because of concerns about Harrison's shoulder at the time, is a left-handed reliever who had 2.93 ERA in 17 games at Class A Bakersfield and a 4.02 ERA in 11 games with Frisco. He has had some arm issues but could develop into a left-handed setup reliever at the Major League level.
The Rangers liked Teixeira very much and wanted him to remain in Texas for many years to come. But they did not come away empty-handed. Far from it.