By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 2008
More than a week since the Washington Nationals offered Mark Teixeira an eight-year, $160 million contract, they are still in contention for baseball's best remaining free agent, though for how long remains to be seen.
The Nationals appear to be one of the last three teams with a reasonable shot at the first baseman, according to industry sources. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels -- widely considered Teixeira's more likely landing spots -- both offer him the chance to play for ready-made contenders. The Nationals offer Teixeira, from Severna Park, the chance to come home.
Reports out of Boston last night, however, indicated that the Red Sox are trying to put all the Teixeira negotiations to rest. According to WCVB-TV in Boston, the team's top management -- including owner John Henry and General Manager Theo Epstein -- had traveled to Texas to meet with agent Scott Boras in an attempt to finalize a deal. According to the television station, the Red Sox were ready to offer an eight-year, $184-million contract.
Though the Baltimore Orioles have also offered Teixeira a contract, their proposal fell short of the others, and those in the industry believe the team is a distant fourth in this horse race. According to published reports, Orioles President Andy MacPhail said the team hasn't raised its initial offer -- though it hasn't ruled out doing so either.
Determining when Teixeira picks a team has been just as complicated as figuring out where he will go. In an ESPN interview during a Georgia Tech football game in November, Teixeira said he would prefer to find a team by Christmas. When Boras was asked several days ago about this deadline, though, he dismissed that notion by saying, "Well, I didn't watch that show."
That said, executives from involved teams are still preparing to hear a decision before Christmas -- perhaps by Monday.
Because of their franchise track records, the Red Sox and Angels are considered plausible Teixeira destinations -- likely in that order, because Teixeira has stated his preference for the East Coast. Still, Washington clearly has made the Teixeira pursuit the priority of its offseason.
Teixeira will be 29 next season. He plays the position the Nationals must fill. He's hit at least 30 home runs and knocked in at least 100 RBI for five consecutive seasons. Until Teixeira makes up his mind, the Nationals -- like the other involved teams -- are making no other moves.
Nationals President Stan Kasten said only that the team was "examining numerous possibilities," including "alternatives" -- though he didn't reference Teixeira by name. Kasten did not address whether Washington would be willing to bolster its contract offer, perhaps by lengthening it to the 10-year deal Boras initially sought for his client.
John Henry told the Boston Herald in an e-mail that his franchise would not be willing to offer Teixeira -- or any other player -- a 10-year deal, especially in such a "challenging economic environment."
Nationals Notes: The Nationals yesterday announced the signing of two international players, both 16-year-old Dominican prospects. Catcher Bill Peña and left-handed pitcher Gregory Baez agreed to professional contracts with the organization after being scouted recently at the Loma del Sueno complex in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. Two Washington front-office members, scouting director Dana Brown and new special GM assistant Deric Ladnier, were on hand to scout the players. . . .
Free agent Aaron Boone, who hit .241 with six homers and 28 RBI for the Nationals last season, agreed to a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Houston Astros.