Red Sox executives flew to Texas on Thursday believing they were close enough in negotiations to complete a deal with Mark Teixeira. But after they arrived, they were informed that their offer to Teixeira -- something in the range of $165 million to $170 million -- was short by upwards of $25 million.
With that, the Red Sox stepped away from the negotiating table.
Executives involved in the Teixeira negotiations, however, noted that Red Sox owner John Henry, based on the statement he issued to The Associated Press late Thursday night, did not unequivocally end talks about the first baseman. And executives from other interested teams fully expect the Red Sox to re-engage Scott Boras, the agent for Teixeira.
"It's a poker game," said a high-ranking official for one of the teams involved in the talks. "Unless Teixeira is ready to make a deal now, he'll be talking to Boston again."
Red Sox officials have maintained privately all fall that while they would love to have Teixeira, they are very comfortable going into 2009 with the team that they have, with Mike Lowell at third base, Kevin Youkilis at first base and David Ortiz as the designated hitter, backing strong pitching.
And if Teixeira were to sign with the Los Angeles Angels or the Washington Nationals or another team, the Red Sox would be in a position to take advantage of some of the free-agent bargains that have developed in this frigid economic climate; the asking prices for players like Derek Lowe are bound to drop, general managers believe, because there are so few teams willing to spend decent money.
One executive familiar with the meeting said the Red Sox were told that in order to get Teixeira, they would have to offer about $24.3 million a year over eight years -- or a deal for about $195 million. The Red Sox walked out, and Henry issued this statement to the AP: "We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."
Boras, in an interview with ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, said the report of a $195 million contract demand over eight years is "inaccurate.'' He declined to elaborate over specifics of the negotiations.
"This falsely portrays what occurred there that night,'' Boras said. "The primary purpose of this event was that it was the first time John Henry met Mark Teixeira. There was a very limited discussion of economic considerations.''
It's unclear exactly what offers Teixeira has in hand. But as of Friday morning, the New York Yankees had not made an offer, and the Baltimore Orioles had not increased the single offer that they had made, and there remained an expectation in place that unless Teixeira is willing to give Baltimore a major hometown discount, he will be playing someplace else in 2009.
The Angels have an offer in to Teixeira, and so do the Nationals, but it's unknown where those two teams currently stand in their bidding.
Some members of the Angels' organization have been leery for weeks that Teixeira was bound for an East Coast team, because he and his wife are both from that side of the country, and many executives among the teams involved strongly believe, even after Henry's statement, that the switch-hitting first baseman is destined to sign with Boston, despite the blip in the negotiations.
The Red Sox and Boras have a long history of negotiations of fits and starts, most notably in the tense talks for Daisuke Matsuzaka in late 2006 that concluded with a contract for the right-handed pitcher.
ESPN's Peter Gammons and ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney cover Major League Baseball.