TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira has not been able to play a full season in five years, and his next birthday, on April 11, will be No. 36. But he did have a good season in 2015 before it ended abruptly in August due to a broken leg suffered when he fouled a ball off his shin. At the time, Teixeira was leading the Yankees with 31 home runs, 91 RBIs and a .906 OPS.
Based on those numbers -- and the fact that Teixeira believes that if he had not gotten hurt, he would have played 150 games for the first time since 2011 -- Teixeira said Wednesday morning that he would like to play five more seasons, four of them after his contract runs out at the conclusion of this one.
And, in a tagline that will no doubt cause some heated discussion among Yankees fans, he would like to play them for the Yankees.
"That's the easiest question you could ask me," Teixeira said in the GMS Field clubhouse on reporting day for Yankees position players. "I'd love to stay here, but we'll see what happens at the end of the year."
The Yankees have already paid Teixeira approximately $157 million for seven years of service, his longest tenure with any club. Over that span, the Yankees have won a World Series, won the AL East three times, and Teixeira won three Gold Gloves and made two All-Star teams. He was even the runner-up to AL MVP Joe Mauer in 2009, when he led the league in home runs (39), RBIs (122) and batted .292.
But the rash of injuries began in 2012. While Teixeira's power numbers have remained strong when he's been healthy -- he hit 39 HRs again in 2011 and 33 in 2010 -- his batting average has been in a downward spiral. That is in part due to the proliferation of the shift, and he has not batted higher than .256 in his past six seasons.
So -- depending on his health and production this season, of course -- the Yankees could have a tough decision next winter. Alex Rodriguez, now a full-time DH, will be entering the final season of his 10-year, $275 million contract. Carlos Beltran will be gone. And Greg Bird, Teixeira's heir apparent at first base, will just be returning to action after missing a year due to surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum.
So what are the Yankees to do? Re-sign Teixeira at the end of 2016 knowing that he is sure to transition to full-time DH long before his next contract runs out? Tender him a qualifying offer next winter, assuring themselves of a draft pick if he accepts a long-term deal somewhere else? Or just thank him for his service and bid him farewell?
If it were up to Teixeira, he'd go with option No. 1.
"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 until I’m 40. My body feels so good, why not play until I’m 40? Being the kind of hitter I am, I can be a DH the last few years of my career, which could really prolong it. I would love to play that long.”
Asked if he thought Teixeira had enough good baseball left in him to justify another long-term deal, manager Joe Girardi said, "I think he does. So much of it always depends on the injuries that take place and the injuries that you’ve had, how they affect you as you get older, but he really takes care of his body. For the most part, he’s in pretty good shape. He hasn’t had really any injuries that have been devastating. He broke his leg, he hit a ball off his leg, but those things heal. I think he has an opportunity to do it.”
Of course, the ultimate decision lies with GM Brian Cashman -- or more likely, owner Hal Steinbrenner -- but it will be a much easier decision to make after Teixeira's final 2016 numbers are in.
"These things have a way of working themselves out," Teixeira said. "The great thing about contract years is if you do your job on the field for your team, the contract works out for you, that kind of stuff falls into place if you go out and have a good year and help your team."
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Only one Yankees position player failed to report to camp today: Venezuelan second baseman Ronald Torreyes, signed off waivers from the L.A. Dodgers earlier this month. Torreyes was delayed due to visa problems and is expected to arrive Thursday in time for the first workout.