At the conclusion of the 2013 season, the Yankees will have some big financial decisions to make. With a goal of getting down to $189 million dollars, they will have to make some painful moves to shed salary, including what may lead to many longtime and star players- Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson, and maybe Robinson Cano- to depart the Bronx. These moves have already begun with the recent off-season losses of Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher. As the Yankees (somewhat ironically, I might add) attempt to shed salary, you kind of have to wonder: if the Yankees could re-do one contract to have maybe kept, say, Martin in 2013, or to help with offset a new Cano contract in 2014, Mark Teixeria’s deal would be pretty high on the list.
Okay, quick clarification: the first one to re-do would obviously be Alex Rodriguez. Outside of 2007 and about a month in 2009, that is a pretty much a never-ending mess. This is the general consensus of pretty much everyone, and it’s slightly played out at this point. While we all agree A-Rod would be the first to get a mulligan, there’s only so many times you can beat a horse (or that I can stomach), so let’s look at another nominee: Mark Teixeira.
At first, it seemed like a big coup when the Yankees signed Teixeira out from under the Red Sox just before Christmas, 2008, inking him to a $180 million/8 year deal to be a Yankee through 2016. And, coming off a scorching 2008 season in which he hit a combined .308 with 33 homers and 121 RBI with the Braves and Angels, Tex had the perfect season just prior to becoming a free agent. Teixeira had never hit below .281, had less than 100 RBI nor hit less than 30 homers in all but his rookie season. That’s pretty solid offensive production, particularly out of a first baseman. Combined with his defensive prowess- check out his Rdrs/yr stats and Rtot numbers when playing first base, and you’ll be impressed- Teixeira seemed to be an terrific, balanced player that would nicely fit in the Yankees lineup, whatever the cost.
However, Teixeira’s fantastic 2008 wasn’t the only factor going into the decision to up the ante on the slugger. The Yankees had just failed to make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade; there was dissension in the fanbase about the abilities of Joe Girardi; and the season was an overall disappointment. Adding fuel to the fire, the primary landing place outside of New York seemed to be the arch-rivals way up I-95, and, quite honestly, I’m sure that pulling the rug out from under the Red Sox was an added bonus to the deal. All of these factors combined in a perfect storm for the Yankees. They ultimately overpaid for a player who was going to be on the downside for the majority of the contract. Even if Teixeira had maintained his torrid offensive pace for his peak years of 29-32, that still would leave roughly six years of downward sliding, but that was the worst-case scenario, right?
Wrong. Welcome to worst-case scenario, everyone. Because that same year he inked that 8-year deal, Tex’s average dropped to .282- not too bad, particularly since the power numbers and the RBI were still there. However, years two and three of that Yankees contract have been an offensive disaster for Teixeira. I appreciate the RBI and homers were still huge positive additions to Tex’s game in 2010 and 2011, but his average also plummeted to .256 and .248, respectively. And not only did the batting average tank again in 2012 (.251), but both the homers (24) and RBI (84) and were Tex’s worst since 2004. And, of course, none of that includes the disappearing act in the playoffs, where he has hit roughly .197 as a Yankee, despite that World Series title in 2009. Without his defense production, which constantly feels like a highlight reel, Tex’s contract would be an albatross in its own right- not A-Rod level, but maybe the next tier down. It should also be noted that while Teixeira is a great fielder, first base isn’t exactly the most taxing of the positions defensively, and while he may be among they best, there aren’t a whole lot of outstanding fielding players who play first (or else, frankly, they wouldn’t be playing first).
Mark Teixeira has been candid this past off-season about the difficulties of aging and maintaining production. Unfortunately for him, and the Yankees, age is already starting to take a toll on the production of their $180 million dollar man, and the Yankees must hope that the decline of Teixeira will plateau for at least the next couple of years. While the Yankees may not have gotten the most out of Tex during his peak years, it’s important that he continue to be serviceable. With A-Rod leading the charge in the worst-contract department, if Tex doesn’t at least keep pace, his own contract won’t be too far behind, and it may well end up costing the Yankees more- re-signing Cano? Hughes? Granderson?- in the future.