The Mark Teixeira sweepstakes took some wild twists and turns Thursday, with the slugger appearing close to a deal with the Boston Red Sox, only to have the team many considered the front-runner to land the first baseman abruptly pull out of negotiations.
"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Boston owner John Henry said in an e-mail to Boston-area newspapers, television stations and the Associated Press late Thursday night.
"After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."
To which Angels center fielder Torii Hunter responded: "Really? Wow! Man, that's good news. From what I was hearing, I thought he was gone. I'm excited."
Teixeira has been the Angels' top priority this winter, but Thursday afternoon, the highly coveted switch-hitter seemed to be slipping out of the Angels' grasp and into the hands of the Red Sox.
Scott Boras, who represents the free agent, traveled to Teixeira's Westlake, Texas, home and met Thursday night with Henry, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and General Manager Theo Epstein.
The Red Sox were believed to have offered Teixeira an eight-year deal in the $175-million range, and a source who is familiar with negotiations but is not authorized to speak about them on the record said it was "significantly" better than the Angels' offer.
Angels GM Tony Reagins confirmed that the team made an eight-year offer to Teixeira at last week's winter meetings. Though financial terms were not disclosed, the offer was believed to be in excess of $160 million.
Reagins had not been informed of any Teixeira decision by early Thursday evening, and he refused to concede anything to the Red Sox.
"It just means he's pursuing his options and will make a decision at some point," Reagins said. "Until that happens, we're still in the game. . . . We made a substantial offer, and they have an opportunity to accept."
Is the Angels' bid a final offer?
"I would say it's a fair offer," Reagins said.
Informed of Henry's e-mail later Thursday evening, Reagins called it "an interesting turn of events. . . . Beyond that, I have no knowledge of it, so it wouldn't be fair to comment about it."
Hunter's mood brightened considerably when told of Henry's e-mail. Earlier Thursday, when told Red Sox officials were meeting Teixeira at his home, Hunter said, "That [stinks]. I definitely want him to come back. He made us complete. I know we were up by 11 games when we got him, but he made us that much better."
Later in the evening, Hunter, who tried to call Teixeira this week and sent him a text-message Thursday night, felt a lot more confident about the Angels' chances of retaining Teixeira.
"What the Angels did was spectacular, they gave him an offer that blew everyone away, and it shows how badly they want this guy," Hunter said. "I'm so happy they did that. I can sleep better at night. We can't let Tex go. He's very special on this team."
In 54 games with the Angels after a July 29 trade from Atlanta, Teixeira batted .358 with a .449 on-base percentage, 13 home runs and 43 runs batted in.
A switch-hitter with power and a superb defender who has won two Gold Glove awards, Teixeira, 28, has a career .290 average and .378 on-base percentage and has averaged 34 homers and 113 RBIs in six big league seasons.
"Don't forget about his defense," Hunter said. "His defense saves a lot of games. A good first baseman cuts those doubles off."
The Angels view Teixeira as the cornerstone of their lineup, a perfect complement to slugger Vladimir Guerrero, and to lose him to the rival Red Sox, who have beaten the Angels in the American League division series three times in the past five seasons, would have been a crippling blow.
Not only would Teixeira, who is said to favor the East Coast, provide a huge boost to Boston, his loss would leave the Angels' lineup with another gaping hole, one they thought they finally filled last summer, and could relegate the Angels to a team with division-winning but not World Series-winning potential.
If Teixeira, who is also being heavily pursued by the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, signs elsewhere, the Angels would start switch-hitter Kendry Morales at first and look to bolster their offense by pursuing free-agent outfielders Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera or possibly Garret Anderson.
There has been speculation they would pursue slugging outfielder Adam Dunn, but the Angels feel he would be a defensive liability and a base-clogger, and they need to reserve the DH spot for Guerrero, who is coming off knee surgery.
The Angels also probably would use the money they'd save on Teixeira to upgrade their bullpen by signing free-agent closer Brian Fuentes, who is seeking a three-year, $30-million deal and has said publicly that the Angels are his first choice.
There is a chance the Angels could pursue free-agent slugger Manny Ramirez, who almost single-handedly carried the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series in October.
But the Angels would not offer Ramirez, 36, more than a two-year contract, and it's doubtful they would match the two-year, $45-million offer the Dodgers extended to Ramirez in November.