Late last night, after meeting with agent (read here: devil) Scott Boras and free agent slugger Mark Texeira in Texas, Red Sox owner John Henry released a statement saying that the Sox are effectively out of the running for Mark Texeira.
This is an interesting development, as many news agencies were reporting that the Red Sox had flown to Texas to hammer out the last few aspects of the deal for the most sought after bat on the market. Reports still circulate that Boston has the high offer on the table, somewhere in the range of eight years, $180 million. However, the key question is whether or not we should believe that the Sox are truly out of the running.
It’s been obvious in the past that Boston is willing to play the game with Boras, whether they win or lose. They lost in 2005 with Johnny Damon, but gained a lot of ground during negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Still, given the Yankees moves thus far in the hot stove season, it would be a stunner if Boston chose not to answer back in kind, especially if rumors that New York is going to pursue Manny Ramirez intently. So is Henry bluffing in order to get some leverage in the deals? By pulling Boston out, the market may soften a bit, because Los Angeles may not feel they need to make such a large qualifying offer to retain Texeira because in turn, they don’t feel that Texeira will choose Washington or Baltimore due to those teams current level of play. Then again, this may work against Boston too, because it will allow the Yankees to swoop in at a price they feel better about spending, as they’ve previously said they aren’t willing to break the bank for Texeira after having already done it for Sabathia and Burnett.
Certainly, Boston has designs for acquiring Texeira, wanting to stuff a power bat behind David Ortiz in the line-up, especially one with power from both sides of the plate. Still, its not as if this line-up lacks thump. People seem to forget that Jason Bay is capable of 25-30 home runs a season, Kevin Youkilis is good for 20 to 25, and then there is the flexibility of still having Mike Lowell on the roster. If healthy, he could feasibly come back and deliver 20 to 25 home runs as well. So needless to say, fall back options are there on the team already should the Sox decide to stand pat.
Free agency still has some options as well, but not necessarily along the same schemes the Sox typically build their team around. Should they attempt to go for strict power options, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu are still available. However, Dunn and Burrell have a propensity for striking out doesn’t really fit the mold of a typical Sox hitter, and all three come with concerns of defensive limitations. Burrell and Abreu would also represent an even bigger issue as either would cause a bottle-neck in the outfield and require some interesting decision making.
Boston also has other priorities to address, namely slotting in two catchers, a fifth starter, and a fourth outfielder. Still, without bringing in a bat like Mark Texeira, Boston may not be able to bring back Jason Varitek because they would worry about being able to hide his dwindling offensive production. They would also lose a bargaining chip in a trade for a catcher in Lars Anderson, who would have been blocked by Texeira at first, but now might have to resume the helm of the first baseman of the future.
So whether or not they are truly out of the running, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. However, this much is for certain: Boston is willing to dance with the Devil, but they may not be willing to sell him their soul.