Teixeira introduced at Yankee Stadium
Bombers' latest catch tries on pinstripes at news conference
NEW YORK -- Having vowed to return to playoff-caliber baseball by any means necessary, the Yankees showcased their biggest financial investment on Tuesday, introducing Mark Teixeira in a Yankee Stadium news conference.
The switch-hitting first baseman was presented with his No. 25 pinstriped jersey in the Sony Diamond Club at the old Yankee Stadium, in what will likely be the final major event held there before the Bombers move across 161st Street for this season.
It is the same number his new manager, Joe Girardi, wore when he was a player for the Yankees. The No. 23 was unavailable, as it was retired in honor of Don Mattingly, who Teixeira idolized growing up, even though the Maryland native was a big Orioles fan.
"The first time I went to Yankee Stadium, I was in awe," Teixeira said. "The chance to play here my first six years in the big leagues, I always loved coming here. Seeing Mattingly when he was a coach here and going out to Monument Park was very special for me.
"I'm going to get a chance to be the first first baseman the Yankees have in the new stadium. That's going to be pretty sweet. The fans here in New York will be pumped."
Teixeira, who turns 29 in April, agreed to terms with the Yankees on an eight-year, $180 million contract back on Dec. 23, but an official ceremony was delayed until after the holidays pending the completion of contractual language and a physical.
"Eight years is a long commitment and one you try to stay away from as much as you can," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We felt he was a rare, exceptional opportunity that we had the ability to close out. I'm glad we did."
Discussing the long free-agent process that ultimately landed him in New York, Teixeira gave much of the credit to his wife, Leigh, who helped seal the deal in a Dec. 12 conversation over dinner at a Texas country club.
"I said to Leigh, 'Everything's equal. Where would you want to play?'" Teixeira said. "Finally, she broke down and said, 'I want you to be a Yankee.' That's what did it for me."
In Teixeira, the Yankees secured a Gold Glove-caliber defender, a major upgrade over the departing Jason Giambi at first base, while also adding a lethal bat to help protect three-time MVP Alex Rodriguez in New York's order.
"It's going to help out our entire lineup," Teixeira said. "Alex is going to get on more, I'm going to drive in runs and I'll get on base more. Our [No.] 5-9 hitters can be middle-of-the-lineup [guys] for most teams in baseball. We're going to have an incredible lineup."
"Here's a guy that can beat you a lot of different ways, and you pencil him in your lineup every day," Girardi said. "You put a switch-hitter in the middle of the lineup that hits for average and takes his walks, and puts the ball in play when he has to. He can change the game in a lot of different ways."
It has been a busy winter for the Yankees, who also showcased pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in a dual ceremony held in the Bronx last month.
Including Teixeira, the Yankees committed $423.5 million to three free agents; the other 29 Major League clubs have spent a total of $402.2 million on 47 free agents. Teixeira will earn an annual average of $22.5 million per year under the deal; Giambi earned $21 million in 2008.
"I think a big part of Mark Teixeira is that we weren't just investing for the present, we were investing for the future," co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner said. "This is a long-term deal. It came down to the point where we knew Mark needed to make a decision, and it all happened in a hurry -- a 24-hour period. We're just really excited the way it turned out and that he's here."
The most coveted offensive player on the market this year, Teixeira addressed the unexpected turn in his negotiations two days before Christmas, an afternoon that opened with him appearing to head to the Red Sox and closed with the Yankees topping Boston's best bid by approximately $10 million.
New York's efforts in the Scott Boras-driven negotiating process was similar to its pursuit of outfielder Johnny Damon after the 2005 season. That winter, the Bombers maintained they had little to no interest in Damon, but then jumped in with an offer when discussions with Boston hit a standstill.
The Yankees played their pursuit cool. Cashman traveled to Maryland and met with Teixeira in advance of the Winter Meetings, doing so at Boras' request, but New York quickly pulled an initial offer that was not accepted.
"It was just a long baseball conversation that felt like an hour, because time flew," Cashman said. "He's very passionate about this game. He's certainly got goals that he intends to reach. They're all team-oriented goals. It turned out to be time well spent."
As the pitching-focused Yankees held back and watched the saga play out, the Orioles, Nationals and Angels also became seriously involved in discussions with Teixeira, who split his 2008 season between the Braves and Angels while batting .308 with 33 home runs and 121 RBIs.
Teixeira said he gave other clubs a fair shake but wanted the Yankees to remain connected.
"I was just hopeful they wouldn't completely drop out and not want to talk," Teixeira said. "This whole process, the Yankees were way up there, as well as some other teams. The five teams that really negotiated, I could have played in any one of those places.
"But once my wife told me that she wanted to be in New York and wanted me to be a Yankee, it was pretty much a done deal."
In the end, it was the Yankees, as Teixeira agreed to terms on Dec. 23. Teixeira was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech and broke in with the Rangers in '03 as a teammate of Rodriguez's.
|"I think a big part of Mark Teixeira is that we weren't just investing for the present, we were investing for the future."|
|-- Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner|
Teixeira spent 4 1/2 seasons with Texas before he was shipped to Atlanta in the middle of the 2007 season after rejecting an eight-year, $140 million extension offer from the Rangers. In six Major League seasons, Teixeira is a .290 career hitter with 203 home runs and 676 RBIs in 904 games.
Teixeira's agreement includes a $5 million signing bonus and a full no-trade provision. The deal gives the Yankees control of the four biggest contracts in the game, joining pacts signed by Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million), Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million) and Sabathia (seven years, $161 million).
The beaming new arrival said that he is looking forward to the challenges of living up to a long-term contract in New York.
"I look at myself as a leader," Teixeira said. "First and foremost, I try to do things the right way on the field, and I think you can carry that over to the locker room and earn the respect of your teammates.
"I've always thought that a team has a few leaders that they look up to, and I've always wanted to be that guy."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.