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Red Sox could counter with Teixeira

Red Sox could counter with Teixeira

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An unintended beneficiary of the Yankees' spending spree of more than $240 million for two pitchers might be free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira.

It was reported on Tuesday that the Red Sox had made a full-scale entrance into the Teixeira derby with an eight-year offer. While the Red Sox are not going to acknowledge that any move they make is a reaction to the Yankees, yes, the signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett by their rivals could act as a spur in this case.

While Sabathia was the prize catch of this pitching free-agent class, Teixeira is the top position player available. He's 28, he's healthy, he's a proven run-producer, a superior defensive player and a solid citizen. His numbers make his case nicely, but beyond that, his agent is Scott Boras, which means that no expense can be spared by Teixeira's suitors.

Already on board in this contest, in addition to the Red Sox, are the Nationals, the Orioles and the Angels, Teixeira's most recent employers. There have been contradictory reports on the Yankees' potential interest in Teixeira, but even if they do not join the bidding, they have already had an effect on the process.

The previous reported high bid for Teixeira was eight years and $160 million, although there have also been suggestions of even higher amounts. If the Red Sox bid now, that means they are at least in that neighborhood. If they liked Teixeira, they were going to be aggressive in their pursuit of him, anyway. They can do this. They may not have the Yankees' apparently bottomless revenues, but in this situation, a distant second place out of 30 payrolls is still a relatively strong position.

The Yankees' recent purchases can only be further motivation for the Boston club. The American League East was typically one of baseball's toughest divisions. And that was before the emergence of the Rays, who went from nowhere to the World Series in one season and now cannot fairly be expected to return to oblivion.

The Red Sox, having finally gained the upper hand in the rivalry with the Yankees by the virtue of two World Series championships in the last five seasons, cannot sit idly by and watch the Yanks make dramatic, if incredibly expensive, improvements. And that is what the acquisitions of Sabathia and Burnett were. The Yankees have not won a World Series since 2000, primarily because their starting pitching wasn't of championship caliber. On paper, at least, that shortcoming has now been directly addressed.

The Red Sox don't have that problem, and good for them. They moved ahead of the Yankees when their pitching became better than that of the Yankees. But in the post-Manny era, with the wear and tear apparently taking its toll on the power numbers of designated hitter David Ortiz, their lineup could use more middle-of-the-order pop. The switch-hitting Teixeira could provide that for any lineup, which is one of the reasons that Boras can ask for many years and mega-millions for this particular client.

The Red Sox would have to clear a lineup spot for Teixeira, but that could happen by moving Kevin Youkilis back to third base and trading Mike Lowell. That wouldn't be as painless as it sounds on paper, Lowell being a highly respected member of this team. Lowell would also have to demonstrate renewed good health following right hip surgery. But there isn't any doubt that this would be an improved lineup with the addition of Mark Teixeira.

On the other side of the equation, the Red Sox's participation in the bidding is good news for Teixeira, because you can never have too many suitors with the proven ability to pay. A Maryland native, his signing would be a public relations windfall for either the Nationals or the Orioles, even though it could be argued that both of those clubs are currently far enough off the pace that they should spread the money around and build up a sufficient base of talent, rather than investing it all in one player -- who, although extremely talented, is still just one player.

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Teixeira's retention also makes all kind of sense for the Angels. This is a highly talented team, an elite franchise, whose largest problem in baseball life appears to be bumping into Boston in the postseason. Both the Angels and the Red Sox offer the intangible that money can't quite buy -- the opportunity to win and win soon.

Mark Teixeira was going to be this winter's most valuable, most expensive position-player acquisition. But it could be argued that, with the Yankees spending lavishly to address their most serious problem, Teixeira's value has been directly enhanced, particularly in regard to the needs of theRed Sox.

Even if Boston doesn't eventually land Teixeira, its presence in the contest for his services certainly isn't going to do anything but increase the competition, and thus the price. Whether this comes as a direct reaction to the Yankees or not, it will be a good thing for Mark Teixeira and his family finances.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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