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Exit strategy

Teixeira looking ahead to free agency after 2008

Posted: Friday March 16, 2007 2:26AM; Updated: Friday March 16, 2007 10:08AM
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SURPRISE, AZ. -- Mark Teixeira's Rangers clubhouse nickname is "Tex." But that doesn't mean he's staying long.

Though Teixeira's longtime infield mate Michael Young just signed a five-year extension, there's no hint Teixeira -- who has 140 home runs in his four seasons -- is in line behind him. Just the opposite. Indications are everywhere Teixeira, a Gold Glove first baseman with the sort of power everyone craves, may be heading into his penultimate season as a Ranger.

Young expressed hope his buddy would do like him, but Teixeira, as polished off the field as he is on it, said Young's new $80 million contract extension "doesn't affect me at all." If anything, the Rangers' keen interest in extending Young seven years out could be seen as an indication they believe their chances to keep Teixeira range from slim to nonexistent.

And truthfully, Teixeira's public stance can't give them too much comfort. "I'm going to enjoy my two years here in Texas and hopefully we'll win a championship," Teixeira said here at Rangers camp, "and after that, I'll weigh my options and see what's best for my family."

His options could be eye-popping considering Teixeira's home run total through his first four seasons (140) is the fourth best in major-league history, trailing only Ralph Kiner (168), Albert Pujols (160) and Eddie Mathews (153). Baseball's exploding revenues (up to $6 billion and climbing) and shrinking number of legit power threats could make a $20 million salary the starting point for Teixeira, who is to be paid $9.4 million in 2007.

It doesn't hurt him, either, that by the time he's free, both New York teams could be looking for a first baseman, as could Boston. Plus, the Orioles' attention-starved owner Peter Angelos is said to have been salivating for years at the chance to add the well-spoken, well-rounded switch-hitting star first baseman. Teixeira has more power and personality than Orioles great Eddie Murray, and also happens to hail from Severna Park, Md.

The Orioles inquired in trade talks last year, but according to sources, the Rangers requested both Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard for Teixeira, an indication of how they view him. But considering Angelos' alleged feelings, a trade between those two teams can't be ruled out after this season.

Teixeira doesn't downplay his excitement about the idea of playing for the Orioles. "That would really be a dream come true," he said. Of course, Teixeira is nothing if not polite. He finished that thought by saying, "But at the same time, I have two years here with Texas and I'm going to concentrate on winning with Texas."

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels did a nice job to lock up Young, even if that deal is no sort of bargain-basement extension. No matter, Daniels doesn't pretend negotiations with the team's other cornerstone are going to go nearly as smoothly. "They're individuals with different circumstances," Daniels acknowledged. "At the end of the day, it's going to come down to finances."

In a comment that sounds suspiciously like Teixeira's own statement, Daniels also said, "Right now I feel like we're going to compete for the division and we'll focus on that. It all depends on the context of the club. We feel like we have a chance to win, and Mark's an important part of that. We'll address the contract at the appropriate time." That the sides haven't found any common ground, Daniels said, "That doesn't change how we feel about Mark as a player.

The Rangers have had a history of working well with Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, well beyond Alex Rodriguez's $252 million deal, and have several Boras clients in camp, including Kevin Millwood, Eric Gagne, Bruce Chen, Gerald Laird and Brad Wilkerson. It's to the point where one competing GM refers to Texas' camp as "Borasville."

But Teixeira seems to be a different case, altogether.

The Rangers and Boras did have what Daniels called "casual conversations" last season, but that was at a time when Teixeira was slumping, and he wasn't ready to commit. He hit eight home runs in the first half last year before finishing with a typical Teixeira season -- 33 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .282 batting average -- and possibly pricing himself out of Texas for good.

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