Yankees Should Sign Mark Teixeira

I lauded Brian Cashman for stealing Nick Swisher from the White Sox. I believe Swisher is an excellent candidate to bounce back from his poor 2008 season, and even if he doesn’t, Cashman didn’t give up anything of real value. It’s a no-risk, potentially-high reward move.

But this move becomes a lot less smart if the Yankees choose not to pursue Mark Teixeira, as a recent report suggested. Much of Swisher’s value is in his versatility – he can play first base and all three outfield positions. Given the state of flux that the Yankees outfield is in, this is quite valuable. However, the Yankees shouldn’t simply plug Swisher into first base and ignore Teixeira.

Last year, the Yankees had two main problems: offense and defense. Neither is likely to improve much in 2009, due to the age and composition of the Yankees roster – namely, many of their players are on the wrong side of age 30. That doesn’t mean that players like Jeter or Arod aren’t going to be good, it just means they’re unlikely to improve, and it’s possible that they’ll decline (Jeter’s decline has already begun). For all of the talk about the vaunted Yankee offense, they scored fewer runs than a Pronk-less Cleveland Indians team in 2008. Yes, Robinson Cano is likely to improve and Jorge Posada will be back, but they will also lose Jason Giambi and perhaps Bobby Abreu; Yankees offense isn’t likely to be among the best in the league.

 

Furthermore, their defense last year was terrible – they ranked 25th in Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (PADE). But they don’t really have many places where they can improve their defense: Jeter and Cano are entrenched at SS and 2B, while the outfield is a mess and may be even worse if Damon plays center field most of the time and/or Abreu is re-signed.

Simply stated, the Yankees need help on both offense and defense, and they don’t have many places on their team in which they can upgrade. However, they have an open position at first base, and Mark Teixeira would provide a huge upgrade, both on offense and defense.

 

The kicker in this conversation is that Teixeira is likely to age extremely well. He’s only 28 now, and he’s far from a one-dimensional hulking slugger. Indeed, Teixeira is athletic, above-average on defense, and possesses excellent plate discipline as well as power. He strikes out less often than prototypical power hitters and generally hits for a rather high batting average. In short, he possesses all of the traits of players who tend to age gracefully. Therefore, Teixeira is likely to still be a very good player in his age 33 and 34 seasons. Thus, committing to Tex for six or seven years is relatively easy to stomach – especially for a team like the Yankees, who can pay much more money than most other teams.

When you’re rich, you should sign the absolute best players. And if that player is likely to age well, too, that’s further incentive to sign him. The Yankees are rich; they need to improve their offense and defense and have few places in which they can upgrade either (let alone both at once); they are on the cusp of contending and therefore every additional win is of increased value to them; they have a hole at first base; and they have the money to sign a free agent starter (perhaps even Sabathia) in addition to signing Texeira. Unless the Yankees pull a rabbit out of a hat (by trading for Adrian Gonzalez, or something like that), if they fail to sign Mark Teixeira it will be a wasted offseason in the Bronx.

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