As the shock of Thursday night yielded to murkiness yesterday, a shared feeling emerged among baseball sources that the Red Sox, despite owner John Henry's declaration the club was "not going to be a factor," remain a prominent - if not primary - player in the bidding for free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"I still believe the Red Sox have the best offer on the table," one general manager involved with Teixeira said yesterday morning. "I think this is a negotiating ploy."
In baseball circles, Henry's e-mail to the media Thursday night - "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" - was taken not as a definitive statement, but as a gambit to offset agent Scott Boras's negotiating strategy.
Sources believed the "other offers" might not exist, contrived by Boras to hike the Red Sox offer. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals did not increase their offers to Teixeira as of Thursday night, sources said. Los Angeles Angels general manager Tony Reagins indicated to the Los Angeles Times that the team had not increased its original offer, reported by various outlets to be for eight years and $160 million.
The Yankees seemingly would be the most likely team to surpass Boston's offer, but when asked Thursday night where the new offer was coming from, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post, "Not us."
It is possible Henry referred not to astronomical money amounts, but rather certain clauses in a potential contract. It is also possible an unidentified team entered the Teixeira discussion, but not even whispers of that surfaced yesterday.
The Red Sox have successfully called a Boras bluff before. Before the 2007 season, Red Sox brass negotiated the contract of Daisuke Matsuzaka with Boras. Having submitted their final offer, the Sox told Boras they were leaving, with or without Matsuzaka on their plane. Boras threatened to take Matsuzaka back to Japan. The Sox didn't budge. Matsuzaka signed and boarded the team plane.
Talks between the Red Sox and Teixeira seemingly crumbled Thursday night just as they neared a potentially climactic point. Henry, general manager Theo Epstein, and CEO Larry Lucchino met with Teixeira and Boras at Teixeira's Dallas-area home. The sides reportedly neared an agreement on a contract worth roughly $180 million over eight years. Then, at 10:45 p.m., Henry sent his e-mail.
ESPN.com, citing "one executive familiar with the meeting," reported yesterday that Boras told the Sox it would take $195 million over eight years to sign Teixeira.
Boras told ESPN.com last night that was inaccurate.
"This falsely portrays what occurred there that night," Boras said, according to the website. "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."
Epstein attended a press conference held by JetBlue at Logan Airport in conjunction with the company becoming the official airline of the Red Sox. Approached by a reporter, Epstein grinned and said, "Nothing. Sorry."
Reached by phone late yesterday afternoon, Lucchino, who said he was in a meeting at Fenway Park, also declined comment. Henry did not respond to an e-mail. Messages for Boras were not returned.
If the Sox reenter the bidding for Teixeira and eventually land him, they would need to make another move to accommodate his addition. First baseman Kevin Youkilis, who finished third in the MVP voting and can also play third base, is under Red Sox control until the conclusion of the 2010 season. Third baseman Mike Lowell is under contract for two more seasons and is going through rehab for hip surgery he underwent after the season.
"For me, if we add a guy like Mark Teixeira to our team, that's great," Youkilis said Thursday. "But you never know. If he comes here, I might be the guy getting traded out. So that's always a possibility."
More likely, it seems adding Teixeira would mean shifting Youkilis across the diamond to third and either trading or giving a reduced role to Lowell. Such a change, Youkilis said, would require him to focus more on throwing in the offseason, but he would be open to it.
"I don't mind," Youkilis said. "I get to play baseball for a living. As long as I don't have to catch, I'll be OK. It really won't have any effect on anything I do. For me, it's nothing big."
Teixeira has said he wants to be signed before Christmas. Yesterday offered few clues when, or how, his free agency will end.
Nick Cafardo of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.