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Cardinals lessons from Teixeira, the Yankees and stealth mode

Can the St. Louis Cardinals learn anything from a dissection of the New York Yankees’ 2008 pursuit of Mark Teixeira?

One of this week’s prevailing storylines regarding free agent Matt Holliday is the supposed “mystery bidder” who will swoop in and whisk the outfielder away from the patiently-waiting St. Louis Cardinals to his new home for the next five to eight years.

While teams like the Mets and Orioles have been linked to the 29-year-old, neither of their offers, if even made, seem to be in the range of the Cardinals’ bid to retain him.

The fear is that the mystery team is none other than the club with the deepest pockets of all – New York Yankees. This is the feeling despite the fact that not only have the Bombers expressed a lack of interest in Holliday, word from their camp is that they will not be engaging. As recently as two days ago, ESPN reported the Yankees “cannot see a situation in which they will become involved” with Holliday.

Joe Girardi, Mark Teixeira, Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)Few in the Cardinal Nation apparently believe the reports, their fear fueled by general, but deep-seated distrust of the Yankees and a revisionist view of the events of one year ago. At that time, first baseman Mark Teixeira, late of the Angels, was being hotly pursued by his old club as well as the Red Sox, Nationals and Orioles.

As the yarn goes, the Yankees feigned disinterest virtually until the day Teixeira’s signing with New York was announced… and so it will occur again with Holliday.

I didn’t remember the chain of events occurring in that manner, so went back to news reports from last winter. While it is true that at least one point, it seemed Teixiera was very close to joining the Red Sox, and there were zigs, zags and apparently incorrect rumors along the way, the basic fact is that the Yankees’ interest in the first baseman had been long-reported.

Here is a partial timeline summarizing press accounts of the Yankees’ courting of Tex. Again, it is far from the full set of rumors regarding the player. It is the only the subset I could locate that mentions New York specifically.

Note how the level of activity and the timeline differ from 2009.

  • December 7, 2008: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with Teixeira and his agent Scott Boras at Baseball’s Winter Meetings on December 5.
  • December 10: Bryan Hoch of reports the Yankees’ interest in Teixeira has waned after their signing of C.C. Sabathia.
  • December 11:’s Jon Heyman reports the Yankees have entered the sweepstakes for Teixeira.
  • December 15: The New York Post reports that Manny Ramirez would be a fallback option for the Yankees if they do not sign Teixeira.
  • December 15: Lyle Spencer of reports the Yankees have turned their attention to Teixeira and are interested in signing him.
  • December 17: Spencer reports the Yankees have not made an offer or a proposal to Teixeira.
  • December 18: George King III of the Post reports that the Yankees were not the team to outbid the Red Sox for Teixeira. “Not us,” was the response from Cashman when contacted by the paper.
  • December 22: Kevin Kernan of the Post reports the Yankees have had serious discussions with Boras but have yet to make a contract offer.
  • December 22: Buster Olney and Peter Gammons of report the Yankees made an initial offer to Teixeira but then withdrew their bid because it was not close to other teams’ offers.
  • December 23: Teixeira’s agreement in principle with the Yankees is announced.

Does the above timeline preclude New York from going after Holliday? Of course not, but it does illustrate that they are being far more stealthy in 2009 if they want Holliday than they were in 2008 with Teixeira.

With Tex, Cashman met with both the player and agent at the Winter Meetings and while the club focused on signing Sabathia first, their interest was reported regularly during the 18 days between the face-to-face meeting and the announcement.

Bottom line, while it was a surprise when the Yankees wrested Teixeira away from the Red Sox, their genuine interest in the player should not have been news to anyone who was paying attention. At least as of yet, the reports about the Yankees and Holliday in 2009 have been just the opposite.

Footnote: Boras may have a very good reason to step lightly with New York regarding Holliday. Incumbent left fielder Johnny Damon, also a Boras client, is reportedly demanding $13 million per season to return to the Yankees while the club is unwilling to go above $10 million. Number of years may also be an issue.

Like Holliday with the Cardinals, at this point, Damon seems to have only one team openly interested in his services. So even if Boras can somehow manage to hook the Yankees with Holliday, he creates another problem in the process, having to start over finding a new home for Damon. It may not be an easy task to interest another taker in the past-his-prime 36-year-old at a price anywhere near the amounts being discussed.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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