Braves agree to deal for Teixeira
Atlanta to send Saltalamacchia, prospects to Texas
ATLANTA -- What was going to be a celebratory Monday afternoon for Braves general manager John Schuerholz turned into a rather frustrating one. But sometime Tuesday, Schuerholz will likely get to officially enjoy the significant acquisition of Mark Teixeira.
If everything had gone according to plan on Monday afternoon, the Braves were going to announce that they'd acquired Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay from the Rangers in exchange for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and a player to be named later.
But because the Rangers won't be able to make all of their necessary medical reviews until Tuesday, Schuerholz was forced to halt all of his other trade discussions and wait another day before enjoying the fact that he'd landed the best available player on this year's trade market and at the same time started fortifying his bullpen.
The Rangers have been given a list of five names to choose from for the player to be named later. On that list is Matt Harrison, a top pitching prospect who felt some left shoulder soreness during Tuesday's start for Double-A Mississippi. The 22-year-old southpaw was evaluated by Braves doctors in Atlanta on Monday.
If the Rangers approve of Harrison's health, he'll likely be the player included in this mega-deal. It's one that provides immediate dividends for the Braves and gives the Rangers plenty of hope for the future.
While others were bemoaning the scarcity of available talent on this year's trade market, Schuerholz showed no signs of distress. With Saltalamacchia, he knew he had the most attractive prospect on the market and consequently the ability to get a player of Teixeira's stature.
With a willingness to also part ways with Andrus, an 18-year-old shortstop who seemingly has a high ceiling, and talented young arms like Harrison and Feliz, Schuerholz was also able to provide stability to a bullpen, which with Mahay, now has the left-handed specialist it's been needing for most of this season.
But the centerpiece to this deal was obviously Teixeira, the 27-year-old first baseman, who averaged 38 homers during his first four Major League seasons. Along with a potent switch-handed swing that will certainly pay dividends for Chipper Jones, he provides the sort of defensive reliability that has allowed him to win consecutive Gold Glove Awards.
"It makes us a real World Series contender," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said Monday afternoon. "I think especially in the National League, we now have the best lineup. One through eight [in the lineup], we have hitters that can jack it out of the park and rack up RBIs."
Teixeira will likely bat cleanup for the Braves, who trail the front-running Mets by 4 1/2 games in the NL East race. This would put him between the ever-hot Chipper Jones and ever-inconsistent Andruw Jones.
Although he's managed to still rank among the top three in the NL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, Chipper Jones has been limited by the fact that many right-handed pitchers have chosen to pitch him carefully and take their chances against Andruw Jones, who is hitting .216 on the season and just .203 in the 300 at-bats he's registered since the beginning of May.
"I think if you were to put [Teixeira] in the four hole and move Andruw to the fifth hole, it would change things a little bit," Chipper Jones said on Friday.
Teixeira should stick with the Braves through at least the end of the 2008 season, when he and his agent Scott Boras will likely confidently test the free-agent market. As a salary arbitration-eligible player next year, he'd likely command somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million. If he's able to continue his normal production, this would certainly prove to be an affordable salary for the Braves, who will likely part ways with Andruw Jones and his $13.5 million salary after this season.
If this is indeed Andruw's final season in Atlanta, Teixeira would be able to supply the lost power. Since the beginning of the 2004 season -- his second at the big league level -- the powerful first baseman has hit .290 with 127 homers, 415 RBIs and a .923 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). During that span among all Major Leaguers, his .546 slugging percentage ranks eighth and his .377 on-base percentage ranks 14th. As for the homer category, he ranks ninth -- four spots behind Andruw Jones, the man who will now follow him in this potent lineup.
While there has been a hole in the cleanup spot this year, it hasn't been nearly as gaping as the one the Braves have seen their first basemen create. They have combined to hit .211 with a .270 on-base percentage and .363 slugging percentage -- all of which rank as the lowest marks in the Majors.
Mahay's value can't be overlooked for a team like the Braves, who have spent much of this season without a left-handed specialist in their bullpen. The 36-year-old southpaw has limited opponents to a .236 batting average in 28 appearances this year. Left-handers are batting .250 against him.
When the Braves play the Phillies and Mets over the season's final two months, Mahay could prove to be a valuable weapon. Two of New York's left-handed power hitters, Shawn Green (1-for-9) and Carlos Delgado (0-for-10), have combined for one hit in 19 at-bats against him. His only encounter against Philadelphia's powerful lefty duo of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard came when he issued Utley a walk.
During his three months with the Braves, Saltalamacchia hit .284 (40-for-141) with 12 homers and four RBIs. The 22-year-old switch-hitter, who has hit just .228 in July, was expendable due to the fact the Braves already have 23-year-old All-Star catcher Brian McCann in place.
Andrus has struggled as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. But still, the 18-year-old shortstop, who played in the Futures Game earlier this month, is hitting .244 with three homers and 37 RBIs for Class A Myrtle Beach.
Feliz is a 19-year-old right-hander, who has registered 70 strikeouts and issued 26 walks in the 55 1/3 innings he's compiled since the beginning of last season. Harrison has gone 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts with Double-A Mississippi this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.