Lest anyone forget, the Tampa Bay Rays are the reigning AL East champions and they were vying to win the World Series in October.
So, forgive manager Joe Maddon if he isn't quaking in his cleats over the New York Yankees reaching a $180 million, eight-year agreement with slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira. Maddon still loves the makeup of his team, and he hinted that New York's deal with Teixeira won't alter the small-market Rays' fiscal philosophy either.
"I know we're supposed to be devastated by this, but we're not; for us to lament it does no good," Maddon told the Los Angeles Times in Wednesday's editions. "Of course, Teixeira is a wonderful player -- the Yankees always go after the biggest and the best, and they've done themselves well this winter.
"But we're going to do it our way. It comes down to if you pitch well, you're going to stop good hitters. A lot of what we did last year was based on pitching and good defense. If we continue to do those things well, we'll be right there."
His agreement, the completion of which is subject to a physical, includes a signing bonus of about $5 million paid out in the first three years of the contract; no opt-out clause; and a complete no-trade provision, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.
The contract will pay Teixeira -- who made it clear he wanted to make a decision by Christmas on where to play next season and beyond -- an average of $22.5 million per season. Boston's offer to Teixeira was for $168 million over eight years, an average of $21 million a year.
"Man, that's crazy," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter told the Times. "Those damn Yankees! They don't play around. When they're trying to win, they're trying to win. It's crazy. They just paid $27 million in luxury tax. That's like 27 dollars to them. They don't even care."
The Yankees shed $88.5 million from their books; included in that are the contracts of $23.4 million on Jason Giambi, $16 million on Bobby Abreu, and $11 million to both Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano. New York has committed $423.5 million in salary in the past month, with $161 million going to left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia ($23 million per year for seven years) and $82.5 million to right-hander A.J. Burnett ($16.5 million per year for five years).
"At the rate the Yankees are going, I'm not sure anyone can compete with them," Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told Bloomberg News via e-mail. "Frankly, the sport might need a salary cap."
Teixeira's salary gives the Yankees, who are preparing to move into a $1.3 billion new ballpark in April, the four highest-paid players in Major League Baseball: Teixeira, Sabathia, third baseman Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million) and shortstop Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million).
"They're scary," Hunter told the Times. "Their rotation is one of the best, if not the best, in the game, and now look at their lineup. They have A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada is coming back [from injury], Nick Swisher ... golly, that's a nice lineup."
Teixeira's agreement also came just one day after the Yankees received a $26.9 million luxury tax bill (their 2008 payroll was a record $222.5 million, according to The Associated Press), though the Yankees anticipate their payroll is going to fall below $200 million because of expiring contracts. Their streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended with Tampa Bay winning the division and Boston taking the wild card, but with the revenue stream from their new stadium, where some tickets are priced at up to $2,500 per game, the Yankees' appetite for free agents wasn't diminished.
"From the moment we arrived in Boston in late 2001, we sought to reduce the financial gap and succeeded to a degree," Red Sox owner John Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press, in reference to competing with the Yankees. "Now with a new stadium filled with revenue opportunities, they have leaped away from us again. So we have to be even more careful in deploying our resources."
The Yankees last reached the World Series in 2003 and won their last title in 2000. In addition to signing much-needed starting pitchers Sabathia and Burnett, Teixeira's power, on-base percentage and Gold Glove-caliber defense are expected to help end the team's championship drought.
"They've had the best lineup I've seen for seven years in a row and they haven't won it all," Hunter told the Times. "They can still be beat. It will take dedication, hard work, and you've got to have heart. When you have that, you have a chance."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.