Nationals Make Offer to Teixeira

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008

LAS VEGAS, Dec. 10 -- In a gleaming city in the middle of a desert, the Washington Nationals took perhaps the boldest step in their four-year history, submitting a contract offer of $160 million over eight years to free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, according to multiple industry sources with knowledge of the offer.

If it were accepted, the Nationals would have more contractual money invested in Teixeira, a 28-year-old switch hitter, than they do in the rest of their roster, but would also send an immediate signal to a beleaguered fan base and a skeptical industry that they are serious about transforming the franchise into a winner.

"We've made a very significant, concrete offer," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said. "He's our number one priority."

Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, said he has received offers for Teixeira from "multiple" teams; among those known to have made offers are the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox. Boras declined to speculate as to a timetable for consummating a deal.

"We've been working pretty well around the clock for a couple of days," Boras said. "We had time to meet multiple times with multiple teams. But I've been through these [negotiations] before, and it could get done in a short period of time, and [the negotiations] could go well beyond the time frame of these meetings, too."

With the Nationals' offer in Boras's hands, Mark Lerner, one of the team's owners and the son of principal owner Theodore Lerner, departed Las Vegas on Wednesday afternoon. He declined to comment on the Nationals' negotiations with Teixeira, saying, "It just wouldn't be appropriate for me to do so."

However, speaking of the flurry of rumors that spread across the Bellagio Hotel on Tuesday -- some of which put the Nationals' offer as high as $200 million, and other teams' offers in the same range -- Lerner said: "We're all having to deal with that, figuring out what's true and what's not. But 99 percent of what I've seen [regarding the Nationals' offer] is dead wrong."

Nationals officials had mixed feelings about their likelihood of getting Teixeira, believing the team will benefit from its geography -- Teixeira grew up in Severna Park, where his parents still live, and he is said to prefer playing on the East Coast -- but also believe they will have strong competition, especially from the Angels and Red Sox.

Some industry observers remained skeptical of the Nationals' chances, figuring Boras would use the Nationals' bid to get more money out of a more desirable team, with most insiders predicting the Red Sox would ultimately prevail.

Asked what factors will go into Teixeira's decision, Boras said: "Obviously, the club's ability to win long-term, the commitment by the owners to the franchise being successful, where they play, the cities they're in. He's played in both leagues. He's had an opportunity to make an analysis of what's best for him and his family. And of course, the economics, too."

Asked specifically whether the Nationals and Orioles would have an edge because they play near Teixeira's home town, Boras said: "You're going to look at [those places] a little differently. . . . I would say they are factors."

Teixeira's $20 million average annual salary would be a leap of 150 percent over the highest amount the Nationals currently have committed to one player for a single season -- the $8 million outfielder Austin Kearns is scheduled to make in 2009. The $160 million total value represents more than nine times the highest-valued contract the Nationals have previously given out, Kearns's three-year, $17.5 million extension signed in 2007.

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