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The Yankees got lucky with Mark Teixeira's contract

There's been debate over whether Mark Teixeira's contract was ultimately a good or bad deal for the Yankees. After looking at the outcomes of similar contracts, it looks like the Yankees were fortunate.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Any retirement announcement is met with a period of celebration and reflection of said player, and that wasn't any different for Mark Teixeira. The first baseman was one of the best switch hitters of all time, powering his way to 404 home runs and a .269/.361/.511 slash line. He probably isn't going to be a Hall of Famer, but a place in the Hall of Very Good is nearly guaranteed. Teixeira had an eight year run as one of the best hitters in the game in what was undoubtedly a successful career.

As with every baseball player, though, the discussion eventually shifts from performance to money. Teixeira was one of the Yankees netted in the 2009 free agent signing spree on an eight-year contract for $180 million. For a while, he lived up to the contract, but wrist problems (and lower body injuries more recently) plagued him. 2013 became a lost season, as he played just 15 games, and the defensive wizard simply wasn't the same the following year when he turned in the worst full season of his career. A 2015 resurgence (in which he was one of the best hitters in the American League) was cut short by a fluke leg injury, and this season Teixeira limped out of the gate and never found his stride.

With an ugly end to his time as a Yankee, the ‘legacy' of his long-term contract has been debated over the past week. Save for last season, Teixeira has produced -0.1 WAR since 2013, a disappointing total for someone being paid $22.5 million each year, regardless of how well he played early on in the contract. Clearly, there are good reasons for criticizing the contract, but when looking at context and Teixeira's overall performance, fans should be glad he signed with New York.

Although the contract isn't a no-doubt win on its own, when comparing it to other recent deals with first baseman, Yankees fans should feel lucky. Since Teixeira's signing, six first baseman have signed large contracts via free agency.






Mark Teixeira

8 years, $180M



Adam Dunn

4 years, $56M



Albert Pujols

10 years, $250M



Prince Fielder

9 years, $214M



Hanley Ramirez

4 years, $88M



Chris Davis

7 years, $161M


*Future performance is estimated by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA

In other words, these are the players the Yankees could have had if they never inked Teixeira. There was the powerful Adam Dunn, who hit .159 in his first year of the deal and, despite hitting 41 home runs the next year, was a disappointment because he hit under .220 in every year of the contract. Albert Pujols has been solid, even slugging 40 home runs last year, but his average and on base percentage are trending down, and so is his power. PECOTA treats him well over the next few seasons, but Pujols has another five years with the team (through his age-41 season) and things could quickly get ugly. Given the Angels' current place in the cellar of the American league, they probably wish they could take back this contract.

Prince Fielder has been in the news recently after announcing his retirement at just 32 because of a neck injury. Signed through 2020, the Rangers and Tigers will continue to pay him through the life of the deal. Fielder started off the contract well, but has been worth negative WAR in two of the last three seasons, and before going on the disabled list this season he had a 63 wRC+.

Hanley Ramirez has had an interesting couple of seasons with the Red Sox, but no matter which position he's played at, the overall performance hasn't been pretty. Ramirez was both a mess on offense and defense last season, and this year his offense is still disappointing (a wRC+ of 109 isn't very good for a first baseman). A talented but injury prone hitter, it's hard to tell what will happen in the future, but no one is overly optimistic right now.

Finally, there's Chris Davis. He's just 110 games into the contract, but the high-strikeout slugger is only hitting .220/.334/.435. There's a lot that could go right and wrong in this deal, and there's plenty of time left. Still, it's a deal many teams would be uncomfortable with, one that could quickly go sour for the Orioles.

Even though Teixeira's deal didn't go as smoothly as the Yankees had hoped, it turned out to be fair and very likely worth it for the team. Considering the precedent for large first baseman contracts, that's about all you can ask for. Teixeira put up big numbers in New York early on, and despite bumps in the road, was still productive (at times) near the end as well. The Yankees look to have dodged a bullet in signing Teixeira over one of the expensive first basemen mentioned above, and perhaps they can use the knowledge that this kind of contract almost never works out, as well as their new philosophy of building from within, to avoid a potential payroll catastrophe in the future. With Greg Bird and Tyler Austin waiting in the wings, there's a good chance the team will be able to do just that.