Do not fret for uber-agent Scott Boras. He may no longer be on speaking terms with Alex Rodriguez and has taken some broadsides from Gary Sheffield, but Boras will not wither. He will make another big splash next winter with soon-to-be-ex Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira.
A group of well-heeled teams are expected to be ready to pounce when Teixeira hits the free-agent market after this season. The New York Yankees, according to a club official, will be interested. Teixeira is open to playing with Baltimore and Washington, clubs near his hometown of Severna Park, Md.
Teixeira could approach the deals Rodriguez received from Texas ($252 million if the contract had gone 10 seasons) in the winter of 2000 and from the Yankees ($275 million for 10 years) last off-season.
Teixeira, who turns 28 in April, has not yet hit his prime, but he already ranks among the premier power hitters in baseball. Since breaking in with Texas in 2003, Teixeira ranks ninth in the majors for home runs with 170 and eighth in RBIs with 555.
His performance last season indicated that he will devour National League pitching this season. Teixeira joined the Braves in a trade from Texas on Aug. 1, and in the final two months of the season he led the league in RBIs with 56, tied for third in homers with 17 and ranked seventh in OPS at 1.020. That the league switch caused no apparent problems speaks to Teixeira's sophistication as a hitter.
Teixeira is the rare switch-hitter without a dominant side. He has the hands of a third baseman, his collegiate position, and they have helped him win two Gold Gloves at first. He understands how to play the game.
Boras knows how to market top-shelf players. He is sure to use the "iconic player" sales campaign with Teixeira. In addition to his obvious skills, Teixeira has the smart and mature personality that makes him a face-of-the-franchise player.
What is all of that worth?
It might be too rich for the Braves' tastes. Liberty Media, which owns the club, has indicated a willingness to raise the payroll. Teixeira will test that vow.
"I'm always willing to listen," Teixeira said. "At the same time, I have much more important things to worry about. If I take care of things on the field, that (the contract) will take care of itself. I'm not going to let it be a distraction for me or my team."
Bet on Teixeira having the big year, and the Braves interrupting the Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets feud in the National League East. If Teixeira gets to the playoffs for the first time in his career, do not look for him to turn blubbery and give the Braves a home-town discount.
Boras does not believe in home-town discounts. Another client, outfielder J.D. Drew, is a native Georgian and had his best career year with the Braves in 2004, but he bolted when the Los Angeles Dodgers offered more money after that season.
Rodriguez, Sheffield and others may quibble with Boras. And while there were rumblings during the winter that Teixeira had had a falling out with Boras, there is no truth to that, Teixeira said. Teixeira considers Boras a friend, and they talk at least once a week. Sometimes, they talk about their families. This year, they will talk about the big contract Mark Teixeira will sign after the season and where he'll be playing next year.