Anyone who’s ever cast a line has a story about the one that got away. General managers are no different than fishermen.
If things had turned out differently in the 1998 draft, Mark Teixeira, one of this off-season’s prize free agents, could have been a member of the Red Sox.
“The Orioles drafted [pitcher Mike] Mussina in like the [11th round in 1987],” said former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette. “He was from Pennsylvania. He had a scholarship to go to Stanford, and the Orioles drafted him in the hope that they might offer him top money and sign him. And that’s kind of the premise that we took when we approached Mark and his family.
“We knew he had a good offer to go to college to Georgia Tech. But we liked his ability a lot and we thought we’d take a crack at him down in the draft and then offer him money comparable to a first-round [pick] and then see if we could sign him. But it didn’t work out. … So, he went to Georgia Tech, got a college education, and got more money [in 2001 as a first-round pick of Texas].”
Duquette selected Teixeira — a projected first-rounder — in the ninth round of the 1998 draft, 265th overall. The Sox used their first pick for shortstop Adam Everett. Duquette offered Teixeira a $1.5 million signing bonus. Pat Burrell, whom the Sox had drafted out of high school three years earlier, was the No. 1 overall choice, receiving a $3.15 million bonus from the Phillies. No. 2 pick Mark Mulder received a $3.2 million bonus from the A’s.
“That [$1.5 million] was a good offer, and we thought we might sign him,” Duquette said. “Until Scott Boras got involved as his adviser, we thought we had a deal with Mark and his dad. We thought we had an understanding. But it didn’t play out that way. So, anyway, we probably should have given him more money.”
Teixeira saw it differently. In September he told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo: “I got to go to college and have the three best years of my life. And I can’t complain on how my career has turned out. I was upset about it for a couple of weeks, but then I started getting into college, and once I stepped on the campus of Georgia Tech, I knew it was meant to be.
“[The Red Sox] treated us very poorly. It’s something I tell high school kids who are going to be drafted, that you’ve got to be ready for the business. Unfortunately, that’s the way we were treated after I got drafted, and that’s the reason I didn’t sign with the Red Sox. We never sought or asked for an apology, but … it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
In 2006 he told Baseball America, “The Red Sox told everybody that I wouldn’t sign, and when it got to a late enough round they said, ‘Let’s take a flier on him.’ So they spoiled me for everyone else.”
Those statements confound Duquette.
“No, that’s not true, that’s not true,” Duquette said. “There was a good opportunity for him at Georgia Tech and clubs knew that he might pursue that. And that ended up being the case. …
“When those players start their career, I always approach it like this isn’t the last contract you’re going to sign, you know, and if you’re ready to go out and try pro ball, let’s give it a shot, and if you’re not ready, then don’t do it now. If you feel like you’ve got enough ability, you’ll get some opportunities some other time.”
Asked if there were any other negotiations he would have liked mulligans on during his eight-year tenure with the Sox, Duquette replied, “We had two good power hitters that are free agents this year under draft out of high school. Burrell we drafted in the [43rd] round out of high school in California [in 1995], and we tried to sign him, and we weren’t successful in signing him. … And Teixiera. Both those guys went on to be middle-of-the-lineup hitters on successful major league ballclubs. So, I’d like to have seen us sign both those guys out of high school. They would have gotten to the big leagues quickly and they’re the kind of players Red Sox fans would enjoy.”
Now, more than 10 years later, the Sox are again in pursuit of Teixeira. “I just think the kid made the right career choices,” Duquette said. “They seem to be working out for him.”
Maureen Mullen covers the Red Sox for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org