by Bryce McRae
on December 31, 2008 @ 00:00:00
The New York Yankees appeared finished with the free agent market after signing starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (Toronto Blue Jays) to a five-year, $82.5 million deal early in December. However, they pulled a fast one on the baseball world when they locked up free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) to an eight-year, $180 million deal.
The move was a surprise as the Yanks had apparently taken a back seat on this deal - the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals were considered front-runners. However, the Red Sox balked at Teixeira's asking price, and Tex's apparent desire to play near his hometown wasn't strong enough to overcome the Nationals' perennial rebuilding efforts.
His career so far
He broke into the league during the 2003 season with the Texas Rangers after making the switch from third base to first base. Teixeira locked down the starting job during that season and would remain there until 2007. During his time in Texas, he won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards while also being named an All-Star in 2005.
After declining a seven-year, $140 million contract offer from the Rangers, Tex was shipped to the Atlanta Braves about a year and a half before his contract was up. He played 157 games with Atlanta before they shipped him off to the Angels at the 2008 trade deadline.
Table 1: Mark Teixeira's career statistics (career highs bolded)
Tex has outstanding averages in each of the major offensive categories, making him one of the top fantasy hitters during his career.
His 2008 numbers are even more impressive considering he started slowly. After the midseason trade from the Braves to the Angels, Tex hit .358 with 13 home runs, 43 RBIs and 39 runs in 54 games. This brings us to one problem with the slugger: He is, historically, a slow starter.
Table 2: Mark Teixeira's career monthly stats
With the typical slow production, one wonders how the New York faithful will treat Tex if he starts slow again this year. Regardless, for fantasy leagues, his slow starts aren't a huge factor as he more than makes up for it with his stellar second-half numbers; just be prepared for this if you draft him.
Prospective owners might notice the absence of stolen base statistics for the slugger. These haven't been overlooked, but with just 16 career attempts (13 steals), he is never going to be confused with former Oakland Athletics outfielder Rickey Henderson.
How might he fit in with the Yankees?
Tex's presence immediately boosts a lineup that was surprisingly inconsistent last year; they failed to score more than three runs 70 times in 2008. New York still finished 10th in the league in runs (789), while their on-base percentage was a robust .342 (sixth best in the majors).
His career line at Yankee Stadium reads: .305 average, 12 runs, five homers and 21 RBIs in 105 at-bats. Those numbers came in the old Yankee Stadium, but with no changes in the dimensions of new Yankee stadium, the switch shouldn't impact him that much.
In addition, the short porch in right field (314 feet from home plate) should help the switch-hitting Tex maintain his steady power output. He has averaged a dinger once every 15.8 at-bats from the left side of the plate, while he knocks one out of the park just once every 19.7 at-bats from the right side. Given the prevalence of right-handed pitchers in the majors, Tex should make use of that short porch often for the next eight years.
Finally, the lineup surrounding him is arguably more potent than his former teammates in Anaheim, Atlanta or Texas:
Fantasy baseball outlook
There aren't many questions surrounding Tex; he provides great power numbers for a first basemen, having done so consistently for the better part of his six-year career. His good health makes him one of those valuable players you can plug into your lineup in April and leave untouched for the duration of the season. The fact he is in the middle of his prime at 28 years old makes him that much more valuable.
If you are looking to grab Teixeira, be prepared to spend a late first-round pick on him. Picking the stable vet near the first turn this year isn't a bad idea because of the uncertainty surrounding other players that are going in that bracket, including Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler and Oakland Athletics outfielder Matt Holliday.
Teixeira's signing with the Yankees might push him closer to the middle of the first round; don't be the owner who takes him there. However, if you do select the newest Yankee, you likely will eventually want to complement him with a player with a bit more speed that can make up for Tex's lack of stolen base production.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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