The New York Yankees former All Star first baseman, Mark Teixeira, recently stated he would love to play until he’s in his forties and specifically on the Yankees another five or so years. It’s an admirable statement of loyalty for a player the Yankees have continued paying a superstar salary despite not being healthy for a full season since 2011 ended. With Greg Bird missing this season with a torn labrum and Chris Parmelee the best response so far from a Yankees’ front office who will officially go all winter without agreeing to a major league free agent contract, it’s understandable to be weary of the position in 2017 and maybe even beyond.
Of course, on the flip side, the Yankees have: Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia still under contract in 2017, fresh off the expiring contract of Carlos Beltran, all of whom are in their late 30’s or already 40 years of age. So it’s understandable if the Yankees say “thanks but no thanks” and take their chances on Bird. In fact, there’s only one scenario where Mark Teixeira will even wake up two years from now and find himself in pinstripes.
If he becomes the next Cecil Fielder.
Here’s the situation and its realistic outcomes. Tex has an expiring contract and Greg Bird, though out this year will presumably be healthy in 2017. Some people are uncomfortable with a guy with two months of major league experience coming off of a major injury taking over a major part of the lineup immediately, and that has merit. Of course, Bird, fully healthy, could take off and reclaim the role maybe hoped he would have in 2016 had Teixeira not had another year left on his contract.
So ignoring Bird for a moment, let’s look at Teixeira. He cannot stay healthy anymore and it’s unrealistic it will be any different this season. The Yankees need to get younger, or else the whole cutting payroll and not buying free agents thing seems kind of silly, and unbeknownst to many, the team has consistently moved in this direction the past few years.
Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Bird, Gary Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Aaron Judge, at a minimum, could all be contributors towards the core, under contract in 2018 and under the age of 30. If the team chooses to extend Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, you can add them to the list as well. So the team is headed in the right direction with age, and with so much money in older players (including Teixeira) coming off the books, it’s going to reach its payroll goals. And with both of those accomplishments, it’s going to be in a position to add talent in its prime through free agency in the next two to three years.
If Teixeira has another injury riddled season, the Yankees are better off going after a cheap alternative to mentor Bird back into his eventual starting role. If Tex has a great season, the Yankees will likely make him a qualifying offer, he won’t take it and they will probably let him walk and collect a pick they weren’t counting on since the switch hitter still wants to continue playing baseball.
The only way Teixeira conceivably makes sense on this team in the future is taking at least a 67-75% pay cut (to under 10 million per year) and taking up a role like Fielder before him in the mid 90’s.
Teams are built when their best players are in their primes and they have veteran leadership in lesser roles to help contribute, mentor and add to the clubhouse culture. It’s why the Yankees of 15-20 years ago were so successful; it’s core was cost-controlled, homegrown and cheap, it didn’t hesitate to part with draft picks and prospects because of this and it allowed them through trade and free agency to bring in players in their prime from other teams to expand the core while veterans in their twilights like Fielder, or Darryl Strawberry, or Luis Sojo spelled the young players, not the other way around.
Teixeira, making $5-8 million per year after making hundreds of millions in his career through salary and endorsements, can keep his family planted in Connecticut, ride off into the sunset as a Yankee and have his 200-400 at bats (much older than Fielder but in better shape), not worry about injury and maybe win some championships before he retires.
Anything else would be repeating the same mistakes that have them relying on potentially resigning an injury-riddled 36-year-old as its most potent bat.
And that’s not what the vision has been the past few years.