We should have known all along they were laying in the weeds, ready to pounce and bring a tidy trio of high-priced superstars to the Bronx. We should have known that an East Coast kid can't help but be dazzled by the pinstripes.

But let's not cry over spilled millions now that Mark Teixeira has joined CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Let's look ahead to what the Yankees have left for the rest of us to ponder. There is plenty.

Of course, the Yankees will continue to be part of the conversation, don't fool yourself otherwise.

As a whole, the signing created a logjam, to be sure, with the CC of sluggers off the market. Though only Manny Ramirez is in the same stratosphere economically, the market for sluggers is deeper than that, with Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley and Pat Burrell among the big bats out there, and that's just the free agents. With suitors for Teixeira able to turn their attentions elsewhere and others more able to move with the top of the market (way) out of the way, that opens things a bit, likely for a post-holidays gusher.

As for the suitors, the signing left the Red Sox with, aside from a wasted roundtrip to Texas, the status quo -- which might be fine, but it probably won't stand. There is still plenty of fodder for them to improve their offense, if so desired. On the other hand, this signing left the Nationals and Orioles tantalizingly close to a once-in-a-generation type of acquisition but with nothing to show for it.

And if you think it left the Angels turning their lonely eyes to Ramirez, well, think again. General manager Tony Reagins couldn't have been more clear: "Manny Ramirez will not play for the Angels in 2009 or beyond for that matter."

Wow, clear enough? That may even cover the afterlife.

Next question: Who will sign Ramirez? (Before you answer, reread the first paragraph of this article and insert "quartet" where it says "trio.")

If it doesn't turn out to be the Yankees and, well, it's safe to assume that it's not going to be the Red Sox, it all comes back to the Dodgers, doesn't it? After all, they're the only ones to have a deal reported to have been offered, although they wisely reeled in that two-year, $45 million offer once they no longer had exclusive negotiating rights with him. And if they bring him back, along with Rafael Furcal, they're largely intact, with a club that clicked right into the National League Championship Series, sans Derek Lowe.

Could the Yankees outbid the Dodgers for Ramirez? Absolutely. Will they? That remains to be seen, but there's a pretty good school of thought that there is no other place than Mannywood for the dreadlocked one. Look at what he did down the stretch there, and how he was embraced and embraced back. We're talking about L.A., where working out and watching cartoons is a perfectly reasonable offseason regimen for superstars. It's a fit.

What will be interesting to see is how the next level of guys fare in all this, the guys like Dunn, Bradley and Burrell, on down through the likes of Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi.

It's a matter of who's going to do the bidding, and if the biggest bidders aren't necessarily in the mix, that changes the economics. Again, the Red Sox don't have a pressing need for a hitter, though if they're so inclined, they can pretty much set the terms. Ditto the Yankees.

The Angels are a different matter -- and you can't assume they're suddenly in the market to replace Teixeira. Though they're actually out two first basemen after trading Casey Kotchman to Atlanta for Teixeira, they have another in house in Kendry Morales, the Cuban-born potential star who hasn't yet had a chance to shine. And if they want another bat, there's a guy named Garret Anderson with whom they're quite familiar.

Hot Stove

Though a Vlad-Dunn-Torii Hunter middle of the lineup sounds good (or sub Bradley for Dunn), it's not a must for the Angels. Even after losing two stars to free agency, they're a strong club, especially if they add Brian Fuentes to the bullpen, as they certainly might.

Regardless, the big, big money will have been spent once Manny lands. But there are other teams with needs and other quality bats out there that can have an impact on a club. Plus, now that Teixeira's in the new house, the Yankees could look to trade Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher now.

See? The Yankees still have a hand in the 2008-09 Hot Stove League, no matter which cards are dealt next.