Free Agent Values: Mark Teixeira

Like we did this afternoon with CC Sabathia, let’s take a look at what we think Mark Teixeira should sign for this winter if the market is somewhat rational. The first step in ascertaining a player’s worth in dollars is figuring out his worth in wins, so let’s take a look at Teixeira’s on field value.

While he’s had some ridiculously hot stetches of hitting, in the aggregate, Teixeira has been quite consistent the last two years: .306/.400/.563 in 2007 and .308/.410/.552 in 2008. As a 28-year-old in his prime, he’s established a level of performance that clearly reflects his abilities, and we shouldn’t expect him to either improve or decline significantly from these marks. This is what Teixeira is – a .300 hitter with power and walks, and one of the game’s best switch hitters.

We see that he racked up 6.46 WPA/LI over the last two seasons, for a 150 game average of about +3 wins compared to a league average hitter. That’s impressive. We can dock him one win for the position adjustment, since first baseman hit quite a bit better than the league average as a group, put that still makes him +2 wins compared to an average offensive first baseman.

Teixeira’s not just a hitter, though – he’s also a pretty good defensive first baseman. How good is up for debate – the +/- system had him at +24 in 2008, but -4 in 2007, while other systems have him as somewhere between above average and very good. I’m comfortable calling him a +10 defensive first baseman. That adds a win right back to his total.

He’s at +3 wins compared to average, and adding in a +2 win adjustment for replacement level, Teixeira comes out as a +5 win first baseman. That’s a true all-star. He’s not Albert Pujols, but he’s clearly in the next tier of players.

If Teixeira is a +5 win player, and we use the $5.5 million per win projection for off-season spending, that gives us a $27.5 million figure for 2009. Again, we’ll factor in a 10% discount off of his current value for the safety of a long term deal, and that gives us something like $24.5 million for Teixeira. Teams are more comfortable giving longer deals to hitters than pitchers, so let’s pencil him in for a 7 year, $171 million contract.

Now, with the Yankees acquiring Nick Swisher yesterday, that might take one big bidder out of the market. Will Arte Moreno have to go this high to keep T-Rex if the Yankees aren’t trying to lure him away? I doubt it, so my guess is he’ll sign for something more like 6/150. But if the Yankees get back involved, don’t be surprised if he ends up closer to our original figure – 28 year old, +5 win position players don’t hit the market every year.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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It is a commonly held opinion that long-term, big-money contracts for 1B/DH types are almost never a wise investment. Is there any reason to think Teixeira could be an exception to this?