Was It Worth It?: Mark Teixeira

Teix Face The biggest of the big anchor contracts in Yankeeland, the 10-year one for Alex Rodriguez, is cloudy in terms of the juice being worth the squeeze depending on how you factor in extra revenue and championships against all the negative headlines and declining production.  The next biggest deal, CC Sabathia's, was a little more clear in its worth.  Signing CC to lead a rotation desperately in need of an ace was the right decision.  It worked out splendidly for the first half of the contract before the decision to extend him was made and the move went sour thanks to injuries.

How about the "smallest" of the 3 contracts, Mark Teixeira's 8-year deal?  He signed it in the same offseason as CC, teaming up with him and the pitcher I've sworn never to name again to form the biggest Yankee free agent haul prior to last offseason.  How has that deal worked out for them?

The Deal- 8 years/$180 million, with a $5 million signing bonus and full no-trade clause.  Signed on December 23, 2008.

The Setting- Much like A-Rod and CC before they signed their big deals, Teix was coming off a career year in '08 before hitting the open market.  He hit .308/.410/.552 with 33 HR, 121 RBI, and 102 R scored split between the Braves and Angels, and was 8th in MLB among position players with 6.9 fWAR.

He was also coming off a second straight year in which he was traded around the deadline and it was clear that Teix was looking to cash in big in his first year of free agency.  He had turned down an 8-year/$140 million extension offer from the Texas Rangers in 2007, a decision that led to them trading him to Atlanta that year.  Teix was in his prime at 28 and coming off his best year to date as one of the top 2-way players in baseball.  He had positioned himself as the best position player available and done everything to ensure that he'd be able to hit the open market.

The First 4 Years: 2009-2012

  • Hit .263/.357/.506 with 135 HR, 425 RBI, and 372 R in 593 games.
  • Among all MLB hitters in this span, ranked 7th in HR, T-5th in RBI, 9th in R, and 24th in Defensive Runs Saved (28).
  • Won 3 Gold Gloves ('09-'10, '12), 1 Silver Slugger ('09), played in 1 ASG ('09), and finished 2nd in the 2009 AL MVP vote.  Led the AL in HR (39), RBI (122), and Total Bases (344) in '09, and in Runs in 2010 (113).
  • Hit .180/.282/.311 in the 2009 postseason and has a .222/.339/.320 career slash line in 183 postseason PA.
  • Played in 91.5% of 648 possible regular season games.  Played 156+ games every year from 2009-2011 and 123 in 2012.
  • Got paid $86.875 million in total salary.  According to FanGraphs’ WAR value calculator, his 14.8 fWAR was worth $65.1 million.

The Next 4 Years: 2013-2016

  • Hit .151/.270/.340 in 15 games in 2013.
  • Hit .216/.313/.398 with 22 HR, 62 RBI, and 56 R in 123 games in 2014.
  • Played in 42.6% of 324 possible regular season games due to a variety of injuries/health ailments (wrist, hamstring, toe, calf, cough, tired legs, light-headedness).
  • Got paid $45 million in salary over the last 2 years.  FanGraphs estimated his 0.6 fWAR in the last 2 years to be worth $3.6 million.
  • Is owed $45 million in remaining salary over the next 2 years, which will bring him to his age 36 season.
  • Wrist and other health problems could persist, even though Teix has already begun working out to get his body into better shape for next season.  Power and overall hitting performance has decreased in every season since joining the Yankees.

What makes Teix's case notable is how it almost perfectly mirrors the 'before' and 'after' of the CC and A-Rod situations.  The Yankees had an opening at first base and a need to replace middle-of-the-order production when Jason Giambi's 7-year deal expired after the '08 season.  They also wanted to get younger and better defensively at the position.  Teix was under 30, hit for high average and power and got on base a ton, and played some of the best defensive first base in MLB at the time.  He was even better than Giambi in the respect that he was a switch hitter.  It was a perfect fit for the Yanks, just like CC was as the young stud ace the rotation needed.

Once the ink was dry on the 8-year deal, though, Teix basically turned into A-Rod.  He didn't get busted for 'roids and become the most hated sports figure in the city, but he did start to see his production decline from its 2008 high point immediately.  Just look at the 2009 numbers.  That was hands down Teix's best year as a Yankee and it was still almost 20 points lower in batting average and 30 in on-base compared to what he had been doing.  In 2010 the average dropped to the .250s, the OBP to the .360s, the slugging below .500, and then slowly and methodically down to the .316 wOBA and 100 wRC+ we saw this season.

Teix's production slipped just like Alex's did in '08, and that slip has been partially caused and accelerated by the injury problems that have plagued him since 2012.  Teix battled left wrist soreness during the summer of 2012 and missed a month of games with a calf strain.  His right wrist got hurt training for Team USA in the spring of 2013 and cost him almost all of that season while severely hampering him this year as well.  Further strains, sprains, and general soreness in his legs cost him some more time in 2014, to the point that the expectation going forward is Teix will not be physically capable of playing every day.  Just like A-Rod.

Where Teix's story strays from the CC/A-Rod narrative is in the postseason.  He didn't produce much in the '09 World Series run, although some of the hits he did get were very timely (hello line drive walk-off homer in Game 2 of the ALDS), and he didn't produce much overall as a Yankee.  His most successful playoff run was the 4 games he played with the Angels in 2008.  Remove that from his career totals and he's a .196 postseason hitter with 3 HR in 163 plate appearances.  To be fair, he was playing hurt in a few of those series.  But when you're making $20+ mil a year in New York, you're expected to produce in the playoffs and Teix hasn't done that.  That he has skated by with far less criticism for his postseason performance than A-Rod is absurd.

Factoring the lack of postseason production in, I think it's more than safe to say that this long-term contract was not worth it for the Yankees at all.  It stinks too, because Teix has always come across as a good guy, and a player with the skill set he had when he signed should have, would have, and could have been a legend in New York had he kept up that level of production for a few more years.  Instead, it's been a steady and permanent decline from 2009 to today and there's not much reason to expect a huge bounce back over the next 2 years.  The power has been there for the most part, as has the defense, but Teix only had 1 truly great season in '09 and never really delivered in the playoffs.  He's likely to finish with a total Yankee career WAR value that's less than half of the $180 million he got paid.  As great a fit as he was at the time, this is a deal the Yanks probably wish they could take back.