It has been suggested that the best way to decipher the Red Sox-Mark Teixeira negotiations is to pull out your old turntable, pull "Number Nine" out of the Beatles' white vinyl and play it backwards. Then you will know what's been offered and what's been requested.
We don't know if the Angels, were they to lose Teixeira, would turn to Manny Ramirez. We don't know if Randy Levine, Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees could win out and buy Ramirez. We don't know if the Red Sox will decide not to pony up and sign Teixeira or whether there really might be a three-day deal with the White Sox, Angels and Reds that would put Jermaine Dye in Cincinnati, Joey Votto in Anaheim and Chone Figgins in Chicago.
What we do know is that there are many very good players -- Pat Burrell, Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley, Derek Lowe, Rocco Baldelli, et al -- who are now realizing that in terms of free agency, January is the new November. It looks like that is the signing period this year, not early in free agency like years past.
Most of free agents probably read Red Sox owner John Henry's cryptic e-mail in regard to the Teixeira negotiations, which was probably a rewrite of something he wrote to Frank McCourt when Henry was negotiating to buy McCourt's house outside Boston, which, roughly translated, might have read, "if you can get $30 million for the house, you'd be wise to take it." McCourt didn't, and Henry got the house for considerably less.
One source close to Teixeira on Friday claimed the two sides are not that far apart, and the conciliatory and civilized nature of the words made it obvious that Teixeira likes Mr. Henry's neighborhood, he just wants the kitchen and heating system remodeled as part of the deal. Teixeira is a very bright man who may be willing to take Washington's money (if it has been offered) or go back to Anaheim or welcome the Yankees in; whatever, he knows what he thinks he is worth, and he knows that Boras' math says the Red Sox could sign him, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe and be right around last year's payroll.
Teixeira has been the model of reliability -- he's played 151 games a year with a .919 OPS to go with his 34 homers a season. Look, CC Sabathia is a great pitcher and an even better person. Plus, he proved this past season how much he cares by risking his arm to try to bring a championship to Milwaukee. CC, though, has helped Teixeira this offseason. Yankees GM Brian Cashman flew to Sabathia's house during the winter meetings and moved the Yankees' offer from $140 million to $161 million because he feared that if Teixeira signed quickly with the Red Sox or Nationals, that if the Angels came in at $130-$140 million Sabathia might give them the California discount.
Sabathia is worth it to the Yankees, because Cashman can stick to his plan of not trading away his best young pitchers. The Dodgers got the Ramirez, Casey Blake and Greg Maddux contracts eaten by the Red Sox, Indians and Padres because of the value of the young players they had to throw into the deals.
Cashman backed off the Mike Cameron deal because Melky Cabrera has improved his plate discipline in winter ball, and there are voices in the organization who still believe Brett Gardner is going to be a useful major league player. No one will argue his energy and intensity, but watch him take batting practice and you'll find out he's a lot stronger than he looks. Granted, he has to take it into games, but there is something on which to place hope.
Mike Lowell is sitting in Florida watching the Teixeira drama play out, probably wondering why he didn't take the four-year offer from the Phillies at this time last year to remain with the Red Sox for three years.
Then there's Varitek; Boras turned down arbitration and a virtually guaranteed $10 million a year for the catcher, and now Varitek doesn't have one offer. The Red Sox tried to get Miguel Montero from Arizona, but the D-Backs wouldn't do Daniel Bard for Montero. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein will not trade Michael Bowden, who Epstein projects as a very good major league starting pitcher.
If Boston does not sign Rocco Baldelli, would they consider eating the final $22 million of Eric Byrnes' deal to get Montero? That has yet to be seriously discussed, but it's something to consider down the line if the Red Sox can't find a catcher.
That is all for another day. For two years, it has been the Red Sox baseball operations' plan to sign Teixeira. That plan remains. What remains to be seen is whether the Red Sox can quantify what Boras does or does not have in offers. When one side is talking about something between $170 million and $200 million there is what Boras calls "the sticker-shock factor," especially when in his six years as general manager Epstein's Red Sox have won two world championships, played in two more ALCS Game 7s and the only major free agent acquisitions have been Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew, both Boras clients.
We don't know where the truth really lies. In reality, Henry and Boras don't know, either.