Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

teixeiraThe last thing I’d ever do is begrudge a player, any player, for going for as much money as the market will give him. 8 years for more than $170 million is a good haul for Mark Teixeira, and it sets him up for the rest of his career, which, if he plays up to the form he currently has, will be as a New York Yankee. So don’t even try to bring outrage about oversized player salaries in a bad economy or saying the league needs a salary cap because the rest of the owners can’t compete. This is invalid because:

a) The Steinbrenner family has clearly managed the franchise well enough in order to have the reserves to spend $400 million in one off-season

b) Just because the cheap-shit owner in your city is sitting on his piece of the revenue-sharing while raising your ticket prices doesn’t make that the Yankees’ fault.

Teixeira in the Bronx is an obvious move. Jason Giambi was off the books, they’ve had a gaping defensive hole at first base for years, they need another power bat. Here’s the problem: now the Yankees are the most talented team on paper. Wonder how that might work out once the season starts? Let them play the games before declaring the Yankees the masters of all once again. There’s still an aging Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the outfield, and a defensively suspect Derek Jeter manning short — and don’t think the Red Sox or the Rays will simply fold in fear. The Phillies won last season and the Red Sox a year before that with a core group of players either from the farm system or who made their names with the team. Where is that with the Yankees right now?

(Also, if you’re a NYC taxpayer, how do you feel about billions of your tax dollars funding the new Yankee Stadium while they blow $400 million on free agents? Since when did the Steinbrenners need a bailout?)

The Odds Of Not Being Rent-A-Players Are Pretty Good

Much of the discussion surrounding Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira on their new teams here on the Left Coast revolves around their impending free agency and what they would command on the open market. The stakes are a bit higher for the Halos, as they dealt away a very good first baseman in Casey Kotchman for a great one in Teixeira, with no guarantee that he will stick around after the playoffs. (Let’s admit it: barring an incredible collapse that would make last year’s Mets swoon look like amateur hour, the Angels will be the AL West winners. That division needs a fifth team badly.)

By contrast, the Ramirez trade only makes the logjam in the outfield worse, as Joe Torre continues to believe that Juan Pierre is his sole option to lead off, thus putting his lousy arm in center field and relegating either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier to the bench. (Our obvious, objective solution: Kemp wasn’t too bad as a leadoff guy a while there. Run him out there again.)

However, I’m pretty convinced that both teams will make plays to hold on to both of their new acquisitions, and will likely be successful.  Scott Boras represents them both, and is looking for a deal reaching the $200 million range for Teixeira and a four-year deal for Ramirez at about the $20 million he gets now (which probably won’t happen at that length.)  We are dealing with two owners — Arte Moreno and Frank McCourt — with deep pockets and few reservations about spending the cash on their teams (although, in McCourt’s case, he could get a better GM than Ned Colletti to do his spending for him.)

Moreno will cut a deal with Boras and Teixeira will stay an Angel not only because the team will have to come up with another first baseman on short notice, but also because it looks like Francisco Rodriguez is going to walk. He’s going to break Bobby Thigpen’s single-season save record of 57, but I’m not convinced that the Angels have to pay $15 million a year when they can put Scot Shields in the closer’s slot. (Remember, K-Rod’s ascendancy allowed the Angels to let Troy Percival go.) Locking up Teixeira and getting Vlad Guerrero to stay are vital to the strategy, particularly if they go as deep into October as expected.

Ramirez has told an ESPN Deportes reporter that he wants to stay in L.A. to finish out his career. Now, I usually file stuff like this under the “bullshit athletes say when they make their debut for a new team,” but I buy it — for now, until Manny changes his mind.  Sadly, as a Dodger hater, McCourt has deep enough pockets to spend the money to keep Ramirez in left field — which could make the team good again, if the decline isn’t that steep in his offense, and as long as McCourt can elicit a promise out of Colletti and Torre to make Andruw Jones a very expensive pinch hitter and Pierre a defensive replacement type. Essentially, McCourt has to ink Ramirez if he gets the Dodgers to the playoffs; it would be a way to start rectifying the many errors of the Ned Colletti era.

These are owners who can and will deal with Boras — and may get the players for less than the bluster than he is talking for either one of their services.

Photo: AP/Chris Carlson

All About Action

The trading deadline in Major League Baseball is hyped beyond all recognition in terms of importance. I can think of no other sport’s trading deadline that gets as much MSM TV time and column space in newspapers, but there are years that the frantic typing and blathering are actually in proportion to the importance of the deals made. This may be one of them.

The Angels just swept the Red Sox again after tonight’s game, its first with new 1B Mark Teixeira in the line-up. Although there was a minor leaguer in the mix not named Nick Adenhart or Brandon Wood in the deal, best to think of it as a straight-up deal for Casey Kotchman, who will be an even better hitter (though probably not a power hitter in the classic sense) with the National League’s pitching deficit — and particularly the lack of quality pitching in the NL East throughout all five spots of each team’s starting rotation.

Essentially, this is L.A. of A’s GM Tony Reagins making his Kenny Williams move — and I’m not just using this comparison because they’re the only two black GMs in MLB) — you’ll remember that the 2005 White Sox were largely considered a “small ball” team too, one that didn’t rely on mashing to get there, but that team got quality mashing when they needed it from both Paul Konerko and Jim Thome.  All the “World Series or bust” writings from SoCal columnists ring true, but if anyone can get Teixeira and agent Scott Boras to take enough money to make it more than a two-month rental, it’s probably Arte Moreno and his deep pockets.

Now, this is a real straight-up trade: Ivan Rodriguez is now a Yankee, having been dealt for reliever Kyle Farnsworth.  Detroit was in desperate need of bullpen help with the Todd Jones Experience running off the rails, and while it’s always risky to switch catchers like that in mid-season (pitchers’ adjustments, calling games, the lack of time that Brandon Inge has spent behind the plate lately), these are the trades that keep GMs employed.  Brian Cashman, albeit overrated and still waiting for the fallout from not landing Johan Santana to end, has filled two major needs for very little in the past few days.

Have the Tigers conceded the AL Central with this move? No. There is enough talent with the bat up and down the line-up to keep them within striking distance, but the front office there seems to know that it won’t do any good if the bullpen continues to cough up leads. Farnsworth has been inconsistent as a Yankee, but he wasn’t having too bad a season this year, and any holds will help the Tigers, who are still trying to make up for a poor start.

Photo: AP/Elise Amendola