By Sweeny Murti
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When the Yankees announced earlier this month that Greg Bird would be lost for the season because of shoulder surgery, the impact was felt for a number of reasons.
Despite the fact the Yankees were prepared to send Bird to Triple-A and serve as injury insurance for Mark Teixeira, the fanbase was vocal in wanting their young slugger to be part of the picture for 2016 after he made such a big splash late last summer.
And with the oft-injured Teixeira entering the final year of his contract, the fans weren't the only ones able to put two and two together, even if Bird began this year at Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Everyone in the Yankees organization could see the seamless transition taking place, Teixeira out after '16 and Bird in for '17.
The injury to Bird ripped open a giant seam in that transition. A major injury, a full year off, and still only those 46 games of major league experience. Could the Yankees really take the chance of handing Bird the first base job after a lost 2016 season? Perhaps they would need a stopgap or an insurance policy. I speculated at the time that re-signing Teixeira to a one-year deal would be an idea the Yankees would have to consider, especially if he plays well this year.
And then Teixeira dropped this little doozy on Wednesday:
"I think I have a lot of good years left in me, especially after last year," he said. "I'd love to play five more years. I'd love to play till I'm 40."
So much for the one-year stopgap insurance policy.
The only way the Yankees should consider re-signing Teixeira is if he has another year similar to last season (31 home runs, with a career-best 12.65 AB/HR ratio that was third best in baseball, behind only Chris Davis and Bryce Harper). But if Teixeira were to prove both durable and productive in 2016, it doesn't sound like he wants to settle for just one year. And that's where things will get tricky, because Teixeira will turn 36 shortly after opening day, meaning he could be seeking a multi-year deal that starts at age 37.
I don't know if you've noticed, but those aren't being handed out with much frequency lately.
Teixeira believes the wrist injury that ruined both his 2013 and 2014 seasons is behind him. He believes the broken leg last year was a freak injury (which it was), and despite the fact that he hasn't played more than 125 games since 2011 he believes he has been more unlucky than injury-prone due to bad conditioning.
All of that may be true. But even an injury-free 30-plus home run season could put Teixeira in an uncomfortable negotiating spot next winter. Yes, power is in demand, but getting locked into a multi-year deal with a player in his late 30s is so early 2000s. And even if teams are interested in Teixeira, at what dollar amount would they feel comfortable doing so?
The Yankees gave Carlos Beltran a three-year deal for ages 37-39. We will see how they feel about that one when this season ends, with results only 50-50 after the first two years of that deal.
Teixeira said he would love to stay in New York and can see himself playing out his final years as a DH. The Yankees are living that now with Alex Rodriguez, locked in for this year and next as the high-priced DH. It's probably not going to be their preference to sign Teixeira for multiple years, but could they?
If Teixeira is healthy and productive in 2016, could it make sense for the Yankees to offer two years and give Bird a little more seasoning, while giving themselves a fallback DH for 2018, the first year A.A. (After Alex)?
I suppose anything is possible, but it will come down to dollars and and sense. The Yankees will not go multi-year if it affects their grand plan down the road, which I still assume has everything to do with signing Bryce Harper to the biggest contract in the history of the universe after the 2018 season.
But to all those Yankee fans who have grown so frustrated with Teixeira's DL stints the last few years -- you want him to hit home runs and lots of them this year, but don't be so sure you're seeing the last of him in 2016.
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