Yankees have fine taste

December, 23, 2008
Give the Yankees credit: They're not some nouveau riche team throwing their money around on whatever shiny baubles they come across in free agency. Signing three of the top four free agents on the market is a sign that they have excellent taste, even if they don't seem to have a credit limit.

The signing of free agent Mark Teixeira fills a hole that has glared more and more every year of this decade at first base.

He's probably the best defensive player relative to his position on the Yankees now, and could be one of only two or three who are above average depending on how the rest of the roster shakes out. He adds significant power to a lineup that had just two players slug over .500 this past year, and his .410 OBP in 2008 would have led the Yankees by 18 points.

Coupled with the loss of Jason Giambi, the signing of Teixeira means a net gain to the Yankees of four to five wins, considering both his bat and his defense. He also eliminates the need the Yankees had for a right-handed caddy for Giambi, since Teixeira is a true switch-hitter with power and patience from both sides of the plate. The Yanks still have to find a solution in center field, unless they decide to give Melky Cabrera the job again and live with the consequences if he continues to struggle. However, if they re-sign Andy Pettitte, they're just about done.

Although the Angels pulled out of the Teixeira bidding earlier in the week, they are the team most directly hurt by its inability to sign Teixeira, because the Angels' offense is weak without him. Unless Vladimir Guerrero suddenly gets healthy and hits like he did before knee and leg problems sapped him of much of his power, the Angels don't have an impact bat in their lineup.

There's an even chance, at worst, that they don't have a hitter who draws 60 walks, hits 30 home runs or slugs .500 next year, which leaves them very reliant on their run prevention (which is strong, and may get stronger if they sign free-agent closer Brian Fuentes) to contend in an improved AL West. The only free agent who would make any sense at all for the Angels would be Adam Dunn, who could play first base. But he's not their kind of hitter at all, and there's no reason to expect him to be an asset defensively there.

The Red Sox were in on the Teixeira chase until the last moment, and I have to wonder if they feel that they were used to drive up the price for the Yankees. Still, Boston is in good shape offensively and defensively without him. The Red Sox are still hoping that Mike Lowell returns at least mostly to form, but they're set at first base in the short term with Kevin Youkilis and the long term with top prospect Lars Anderson reaching Double-A this year at age 20.

The move also hurts the Brewers and Blue Jays, each of whom will receive a draft pick from the Yankees as compensation for the loss of a free agent. Because Teixeira's Elias rating is higher than those of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the Angels now get the Yankees' first-round pick, pushing the pick the Brewers receive down to the second round (probably 40 picks below where it would have been had the Yanks not signed Teixeira) and the pick the Blue Jays receive down to the third round (31 picks below where it would have been).

The Blue Jays are in an unenviable position now, staring up at three clearly superior teams despite having a roster that would contend in just about every other division. It may now make sense to explore trading core players like Vernon Wells and even Roy Halladay, although the latter's no-trade clause may limit the return.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer


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