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Yanks pounced on Teixeira at right time

Yanks pounced at right time

NEW YORK -- The Yankees had vowed all along to remain connected to the Mark Teixeira chase, leaving open the possibility that they could push a last minute offer on the table. But general manager Brian Cashman played it cool, content to hang back and see what developed.

New York's tone was set on Dec. 4, when Cashman met with Teixeira in the slugger's home state of Maryland. The meeting took place at the request of agent Scott Boras, and though the Yankees did not make a firm offer that afternoon, both sides came away with positive vibes.

According to a source, Cashman made it clear that the Yankees' priority at the time was to upgrade their starting pitching, a mission that every club executive within spitting distance of a microphone had echoed since the final days of the regular season.

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Having been burned by not making the playoffs for the first time since 1993, the Yankees had high aspirations to pursue both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Though they would eventually land them both, laying out a combined $243.5 million in commitments, the pursuit would take some time.

With November acquisition Nick Swisher tentatively penciled in at first base, the Yankees were open to upgrading the position if possible. While Teixeira entertained his other suitors, there was a promise to remain engaged.

"It was a good meeting," Cashman said recently. "Here's a player that I had actually met with a, 'Hello,' once more than anything else, when we were playing in Anaheim. I was very impressed with Mark. We've done a lot of research on him. He's a special player and a special person, too. He asked a lot of questions."

As with other free agents, the amenities of the Yankees' gleaming new $1.3 billion stadium were discussed, a premier selling point for the organization. It was later reported that the Yankees made Teixeira what was characterized as a 'soft' offer around that time, but a pact nowhere near the 10-year, $250 million package that Boras was said to be seeking.

The Red Sox, Angels, Nationals and Orioles led the charge at the time. Instead of joining the clubs in Boras' tumbler, the Yankees focused on the upgrading their pitching, shaking up the market by hammering out the big-money deals for Sabathia and Burnett. But it was not goodbye forever -- just goodbye for now.

New look in New York
Possible Yankees Opening Day lineup
No.
Player
Position
1.Johnny DamonLF
2.Derek JeterSS
3.Alex Rodriguez3B
4.Mark Teixeira1B
5.Jorge PosadaC
6.Hideki Matsui DH
7.Xavier NadyRF
8.Robinson Cano2B
9.Brett GardnerCF

Possible Yankees starting rotation
No.
Pitcher
Throws
1.CC SabathiaLHP
2.A.J. BurnettRHP
3.Chien-Ming WangRHP
4.Joba ChamberlainRHP
5.Phil HughesRHP
"I think it's easy to say anybody would want a Mark Teixeira," Cashman said.

As recently as Tuesday morning, Teixeira appeared to be heading to the Red Sox by default, as the Angels had already pulled an eight-year, $160 million offer. The Orioles and Nationals could boast geographical proximity to Severna Park, Md., but their ongoing building efforts ruled out Teixeira's hope to play for an East Coast club that would perennially compete for a World Series championship.

Yet there appeared to be some hesitation in Teixeira's dealings with the Red Sox. The negotiations took a strange turn when Red Sox owner John Henry met with Teixeira and Boras last week in Dallas, believing that a deal was close, only to be told that Boston was being outbid by a mystery club.

Soon after, Henry fired off an e-mail to several media outlets stating that, "After hearing about his other offers, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor" in Teixeira's negotiations. It may have been a bluff, because unlike the Angels, the Red Sox never pulled the plug.

Henry's statement apparently meant that the Red Sox had no intention of moving from their proposal, though they reportedly did bump it to eight years and $170 million -- $10 million less than what the Yankees eventually paid. The Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox imposed a deadline of Monday night, but Boras told them Teixeira was traveling and needed time to make a decision.

At that time, as the New York Daily News reported, Teixeira revealed that he had favored the Yankees all along and conveyed that to the club. The Red Sox continued to wait, and may have never seen the Yankees coming. The Boras flashbacks were inevitable: in December 2005, the Yankees signed Johnny Damon to a four-year, $52 million contract after negotiations hit a standstill with the Red Sox.

"With a new stadium filled with revenue opportunities, they have leaped away from us again," Henry wrote in an e-mail to the AP.

The Teixeira agreement came one day after the Yankees were slammed by Commissioner Bud Selig with a luxury tax bill for $26.9 million, having calculated their payroll at $222.2 million for the 2008 season.

It may have seemed like bad timing to push New York's offseason investment plan well past the $400 million mark, but the Yankees' payroll actually remains on track to be lower for the 2009 season, even with Teixeira. In adding Sabathia, Burnett, Swisher and Damaso Marte, the Yankees had restored approximately $48.3 million of the $88.5 million coming off their books.

Though the Yankees' winter work is not complete, the projected revenue from the new Yankee Stadium left flexibility to arrange a deal with Teixeira, who intended to pick a team Tuesday, wanting his situation finalized by Christmas.

Aware that negotiations with the Red Sox had become stagnant over the weekend, Cashman got approval from Hal Steinbrenner to thump down a hard offer for Teixeira. Part of the reasoning process involved a look ahead to the 2010 free-agent market, when outfielder Matt Holliday would be the biggest catch. Teixeira fit the Yankees more at a position where they needed the help.

A source said the Yankees were surprised when they learned that their eight-year, $180 million offer was now the best on the table -- one year less than the Nationals' package for the same value, boasting a no-trade clause and a potential pennant contender to boot. The AP reported that Boras then dropped his demand of a 10-year contract and sent Teixeira to the Yankees.

It appears that Teixeira truly preferred the Yankees over the Nationals for more than financial reason, as MASN Sports reported that Washington had actually offered $5 million more, according to a source, and were not offered the opportunity to better their offer after the Yankees got involved.

While the Yankees provided what Teixeira desired, he also gives the club something they need. Despite the pitching upgrades, many believed the Yankees needed an impact bat to help protect Alex Rodriguez in the lineup and restore a sputtering offense that scored three runs or less 70 times last year.

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Teixeira also represents a defensive massive upgrade over predecessor Jason Giambi, following a campaign in which the Yankees used 12 different first basemen. With Teixeira wrapped under their tree, Cashman will return to work heading into the new year to settle the fallout. With Swisher displaced from first base, he could play a corner outfield position or become a movable piece.

The Yankees may also shop Damon, Melky Cabrera or Xavier Nady, and must still acquire a fifth starting pitcher -- perhaps Andy Pettitte, who should feel even better about returning to a contending team after this week's development.

Bryan Hoch 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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