Free Agent Mark Teixeira Has Time On His Side

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 2008

The ominous silence on the Mark Teixeira front can't mean much good for the Washington Nationals. Their eight-year, $160 million offer to Teixeira, the switch-hitting first baseman they envision as their franchise player, remains on the table, but the Teixeira camp could have much to gain by waiting.

Perhaps the biggest question regarding the Teixeira sweepstakes is whether the New York Yankees will get involved, joining the Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

To this point, the Yankees have signaled a firm no, but if there is any chance at all of it happening, agent Scott Boras would almost certainly give it all the time it needed to happen. One clue might have come when the Yankees and pitcher A.J. Burnett agreed to a reported five-year, $82.5 million deal yesterday.

One Yankees executive as far back as mid-November insisted the team would not be bidding on Teixeira, as their focus was on pitching. With ace left-hander CC Sabathia already in the fold and Burnett about to sign, the Yankees still may not be done, with veterans Andy Pettitte and Derek Lowe also on their radar screen.

However, the Yankees also know their offense lacks a big-time impact bat to go along with third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and team officials were careful during the recently concluded winter meetings in Las Vegas to appear open to the possibility of making a run at Teixeira.

Notes: The Nationals have also shown some interest in free agent relief pitchers, including left-hander Brian Fuentes, widely considered the top closer remaining on the market.

However, Fuentes's agent, Dan Horwits, said the Nationals made it clear they needed to address their need for a hitter before turning their attention to the bullpen, and it is doubtful the Nationals would offer anywhere near the three-year, $30 million deal Fuentes, 33, is seeking.

Washington is also interested in right-hander Juan Cruz, who has excelled as a setup man in Arizona . . . .

Like the other 29 teams, the Nationals faced a midnight deadline last night for tendering contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. The team tendered a contract to right-hander Shawn Hill, whose promising career has been slowed by elbow injuries, and to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Josh Willingham and left-hander Scott Olsen.

The Nationals did not tender a contract to right-hander Tim Redding. They had hoped to re-sign Redding but they didn't want to pay him the $3 million or so he would get via arbitration. The club also signed outfielder Willie Harris to a two-year, $3 million deal. . . .

The Cleveland Indians were internally discussing the results of Kerry Wood's physical and had no word on whether they've reached agreement with the closer on a contract. . . . The Philadelphia Phillies reached a preliminary agreement with outfielder Raúl Ibáñez on a three-year deal worth $31.5 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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