The last few days the Hot Stove has been simmering. There have been no major reporting or updates.

Mark Teixeira has gotten offers from the LA Angels, Washington Nationals, and reportedly the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are also in the mix. It’s speculated Teixeira has been offered between $160-180 million on top of 6-8 years, possibly as high as $200 million. Let me say one thing: Whatever he’s offered, and eventually accepts, he is worth it.

Now, for Manny, he has only been offered one contract, by the LA Dodgers. No one else has expressed interest in him, aside from the Yankees. He could command a $23 million per year offer for 3 years, and these figures are coming from the Yankees.

John Harper at the Daily News thinks that even with all of Manny’s antics and his “me-first” attitude, he’s worth the risk.

Yet I still think it makes sense for the Yankees to take a chance on Manny. If they’re not going to get the guy they really need, a young, team-first slugger such as Mark Teixeira, then they should sign the best clutch hitter in the game and hope for the best.

Look at it this way: In the pursuit of a championship and nothing less, Ramirez is a gamble the Yankees can afford to take. The money is practically irrelevant to them, but if they can get him for a three-year contract, you have to figure they will get a solid effort from the mercurial masher for at least a couple of years.

Ramirez will be 37 in May, but obviously there is no sign of decline. And there’s no disputing his work ethic when he’s motivated. Red Sox players talked for years with reverence about the hours he put in during the season on conditioning and extra hitting. Even legendary workaholic Don Mattingly, as Dodgers hitting coach last season, raved about Manny’s dedication and preparation.

Mattingly wasn’t just saying all the right things publicly, either, because privately he proclaimed a similar appreciation of Ramirez to old friends in the Yankee organization.

Regardless, there’s no debate about what Manny’s bat could do for the Yankees. He carried an otherwise mediocre Dodgers team to the NLCS, so it’s not hard to imagine what his presence would mean for a Yankee lineup that needs a galvanizing force.

As importantly as anything, Ramirez likely would do wonders for Alex Rodriguez, taking so much of the pressure off A-Rod feels and allowing him to relax and let his talent take over. Perhaps even in the postseason.

The biggest point Harper makes that I agree with is that Manny will give the team an instant upgrade and a more feared #3 hitter than Bobby Abreu was. Teams will be forced to pitch around Manny to get to A-Rod, instantly giving A-Rod RBI opportunities when he comes to bat. This is akin to what Boston had with Manny and Ortiz for several years. Now the Yankees would have this opportunity.

Much has been debated about the Yankees’ payroll this year. While it is already lower and the Yankees have around $41 million left before they come to their $208 million price tag on the 2008 season, people need to factor in A-Rod’s contract status at $32 million and arbitration on several players such as Nady, Wang, and Britton. The value of all of these would push the Yankees up to nearly $185 million with the need for bench players and possibly another DH or strong bat will bring the payroll close to $190 million. The Yankees have publicly declared that they don’t want to go over $180 million, but in order to get the team-first, young future “Lou Gehrig”, the Yankees need to go over $200 million.

Here’s why, according to Ken Rosenthal:

…the Yankees project that their 2009 payroll will be lower than it was last season even with the additions of Sabathia and free-agent righty A.J. Burnett. The signing of Teixeira almost certainly would push it higher. But why should a team that bid against itself for the best pitcher on the market suddenly turn passive with the best all-around player?

The Yankees needed pitching, they got pitching. It makes no sense for them to stop at the Red Sox’s No. 1 target, a switch-hitter who could pair with Alex Rodriguez to form a devastating middle of the order for the better part of the next decade.

Ramirez would be a reasonable alternative to Teixeira, just as he would be for the Angels. But Teixeira, 28, is eight years younger than Ramirez, a defensive asset and let’s face it, less of a threat to A-Rod’s psyche. The Material Boy might freak out at the sight of Ramirez and spend the rest of his 10-year contract trying to hit every pitch nine miles.

Surely, the Yankees and every other bidder understand that $160 million for eight years is merely the baseline for Teixeira — the Tigers gave Miguel Cabrera $152.3 million over eight before he was a free agent, and Teixeira rejected $140 million for eight from the Rangers in 2007.

Teixeira, 28, is three years older than Cabrera. His career OPS is nearly identical, his defense far superior. His agent, Scott Boras, says that none of his previous free-agent clients, including A-Rod, were in this much demand.

If the Yankees want to draw a line, they should draw it with paying Andy Pettitte $10 million to be their fifth starter or Mike Cameron $10 million to be their center fielder.

Not with Teixeira, for crying out loud.

Rosenthal makes a whole lot of sense. Why stop there? Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but keep in mind that Matsui and Damon are coming off the books after the 2009 season, which will free up some money and we can stick out hope for Cabrera to bounce back and move to right field while Austin Jackson takes over center field and Nady continues to patrol left field. Swisher could platoon.

My take? For the team and for the future, it’s Teixeira.

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