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Teixeira signing stirs Yankees' rivals

Teixeira signing stirs Yankees' rivals

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As the Major League playing field tilted dramatically toward the Bronx on Tuesday, rivals kowtowed with resignation and admiration to the latest master stroke of the Yankees' master plan.

Things good and bad happen in threes, and the third lightning bolt struck the American League East on Tuesday, with the Bronx Bombers' signing of free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to an eight-year deal believed worth $180 million.

Already established by Las Vegas oddsmakers as favorites to win the 2009 World Series after signing left-hander CC Sabathia under their nose during the Winter Meetings earlier this month, the Yankees have since added another high-profile pitcher, A.J. Burnett, and the punch-and-pick double threat of Teixeira.

To secure the 28-year-old switch-hitter, the Yankees had to beat out four teams, including two in their own division -- the Orioles and, more significantly, the Red Sox.

Boston club owner John Henry, who foresaw following a meeting with the Teixeira camp last week that the Sox "would not be factor" in subsequent negotiations, accepted the Yankees' strike as reaffirmation of their rank as MLB's iconic franchise.

"From the moment we arrived in Boston in late 2001, we saw it as a monumental challenge," Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We sought to reduce the financial gap and succeeded to a degree.

"Now with a new stadium filled with revenue opportunities, they have leaped away from us again. So we have to be even more careful in deploying our resources."

"We still have a team that is very similar to the ones we've had the past two years," said Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the AL's reigning Most Valuable Player. "We won the World Series two seasons ago and came within one win of playing in another one this year. We can't worry about what other teams are doing."

Following closely in the wake of the signings of Sabathia and Burnett -- whose introductory media conference at old Yankee Stadium unfolded only last week -- the Teixeira collar caps a remarkable free-agent haul for the Yankees.

The latest signing also came the day after the Yankees were assessed a luxury tax of nearly $27 million based on a 2008 payroll of $222 million, moving at least one owner to call for something baseball has long resisted -- an enforceable ceiling on salaries.

"At the rate the Yankees are going, I'm not sure anyone can compete with them," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in an e-mail sent to Bloomberg News Service. "Frankly, the sport might need a salary cap.

"They are on a completely different economic playing field," added Attanasio. "I paid $220 million for my team [in September 2004]; now they get three players for $420 million."

"You're used to it to a certain extent," said Vernon Wells, the center fielder of the division-foe Blue Jays.

"Obviously, you're not used to them going out and getting the top two or three guys on the free-agent market. But they have a checkbook that's never-ending."

The most direct impact of the Yankees signing Teixeira is that the two division rivals who had also pursued him, Boston and Baltimore, did not.

Orioles GM Andy MacPhail implied his club had already extended itself just to play on Teixeira's periphery, and could stretch no further.

Hot Stove

"We would've liked to have the player," MacPhail said. "We sort of deviated from our plan a little bit to see if we could accommodate him, but at the end of the day, it was really just too much of our resources devoted to one player. My preference would've been [for Teixeira to sign] outside of the division, but it is what it is.

"We're just dealing with a club that has resources way beyond the great majority of the rest of us."

Realistically, though, the ones being chased by the Yankees aren't the Red Sox but the Tampa Bay Rays, their division's defending champions.

Even on their way to a breakthrough 97-win season that did not end until Game 5 of the World Series, the Rays went only 7-11 against the Yankees; they were 36-18 against their three other divisional foes.

$100 million contracts
Rank
Player
Team
Length
Value
1A. Rodriguez NYY10 yrs ('08-17) $275,000,000
2A. RodriguezTEX10 yrs ('01-10) $252,000,000
3Derek Jeter NYY10 years ('01-10) $189,000,000
4M. Teixeira NYY8 yrs ('09-16) $180,000,000
5CC Sabathia NYY7 yrs ('08-14) $161,000,000
6M. Ramírez BOS8 yrs ('01-08) $160,000,000
7M. Cabrera DET8 yrs ('08-15) $152,300,000
8Todd Helton COL 11 yrs (2001-11) $151,500,000
9J. Santana NYM6 yrs ('08-13) $137,500,000
10A. Soriano CHC8 yrs ('07-14) $136,000,000
11Vernon Wells TOR7 yrs ('08-14) $126,000,000
12Barry Zito SF7 yrs ('07-13) $126,000,000
13Mike Hampton COL 8 yrs ('01-08) $121,000,000
14Jason Giambi NYY7 yrs ('02-08) $120,000,000
15Carlos Beltrán NYM7 yrs ('05-11) $119,000,000
16K. Griffey Jr. CIN9 yrs ('00-08) $116,500,000
17Kevin BrownLAD7 yrs ('99-2005) $105,000,000
18Albert Pujols STL7 yrs ('04-10) $100,000,000
18Carlos Lee HOU6 yrs ('07-12) $100,000,000

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had a what-else-is-new? reaction to the Bombers pairing Teixeira with Alex Rodriguez in the heart of their lineup.

"I figured he would land in our division someplace," Maddon said. "The big names are going to normally land within the AL East. We still have to remain focused on what we are doing regardless of how the other rosters stack up. We need to control what we can and play the game our way."

Added Matt Silverman, the Rays' club president, "We plan for and expect the Yankees and Red Sox to have the highest payrolls in the game. Their player expenditures are four to six times ours.

"This puts into perspective what we were able to accomplish in 2008 and it highlights our challenge in 2009 and beyond."

Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi, the other AL East general manager who stayed clear of the Teixeira hunt, accepted the signing as yet another confirmation of the division's reputation.

"We know what division we play in and it's not going to change. It's business as usual," Ricciardi said. "They've got resources and they're going to be able to go after players like this every time.

"We keep saying it every year ... Guess what? The sun rose in the east and set in the west. This is why it's the toughest division in baseball. But, it doesn't affect us. It's business as usual from our end. We know they're going to be involved with these guys and we go out and just try to be the best that we can."

"I don't think this really says anything that everyone didn't already know," said Frank Wren, the Atlanta GM who had dealt Teixeira to the Angels in July, landing replacement first baseman Casey Kotchman and right-hander Steve Marek.

"[The Yankees] have more resources than anyone else by a good margin which allows them the latitude to do things others cannot."

"I guess we know why they have such high prices for seats at the new stadium," noted Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn.

"It doesn't surprise me. They always go out and get some of the marquee players that are available in free agency, although I don't know if they have ever gone as big as this year."

Nobody has. That bar has been raised to unprecedented heights, which is the altitude at which the Yankees now expect to spend the next year or decade.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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