Braves finalize deal for slugger Teixeira
Atlanta bolsters bullpen with relievers Dotel, Mahay, Ring
ATLANTA -- When discussing trades, Braves general manager John Schuerholz often likes to say, "It takes two to tango." As he proved with a flurry before Tuesday afternoon's trade deadline, it also takes a willingness to part ways with potential benefits to receive immediate dividends.
By the time Tuesday's deadline passed, Schuerholz had plenty of reason to smile. With a flurry of final-hour deals, he was able to secure the services of Mark Teixeira and make significant improvements to his bullpen via the acquisitions of right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel and left-handed relievers Ron Mahay and Royce Ring.
"Anybody would be happy after a day like this," said Schuerholz, who confidently and successfully attacked what seemed to be a barren trade market with the strength of a fertile Minor League system.
When it became apparent a few weeks ago that it would be tough to find starting pitching via trades, Schuerholz put his primary focus on Teixeira, a powerful switch-hitting first baseman who is viewed as somebody who could alter the balance of power in the National League East.
While there were reports of the Teixeira deal being completed Monday, it wasn't official until approximately 90 minutes before Tuesday's deadline. The Rangers asked the Braves to add a fifth prospect to the deal and because he felt so strongly about both Teixeira and Mahay, Schuerholz obliged with the inclusion of left-handed pitcher Beau Jones, who was taken with the 41st overall selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
"You're not going to get [Teixeira] unless you give up quite a bit," said Braves manager Bobby Cox of his new first baseman, whose late arrival limited him to a bench role on Tuesday.
Along with Jones, the Braves also had to give the Rangers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 18-year-old phenom Elvis Andrus, right-handed pitcher Neftali Perez and left-handed pitcher Matt Harrison, whose recently sore left shoulder forced the inclusion of a fifth player.
"In order to assuage them and give them some comfort in the deal we were willing to add another young player," Schuerholz said. "Because we value the acquisition of Teixeira and Mahay to that level, we were willing to do that."
With this deal alone, Schuerholz parted with five players, all of whom have been considered among his club's top 20 prospects. Saltalamacchia, who Cox believes is ready to be an everyday big league catcher, and Andrus, who has the potential to be a superstar shortstop, have been considered by some to be the club's top two prospects.
Because Teixeira and his agent Scott Boras are expected to test the free-agent market following the 2008 season, there was obvious reason to wonder if the willingness to part with this much talent was worth gaining a first baseman, who might be around for just two pennant runs.
Obviously, Schuerholz believed the cost was worth the potential reward.
"If we win two pennants, it is," Schuerholz said. "Or one pennant. Or one World Series and one pennant."
Whatever the case, Schuerholz now certainly has a team seemingly much more capable of making a World Series run. Shortly after gaining Teixeira and Mahay, the veteran GM was able to complete the deal that brings Dotel to Atlanta in exchange for Kyle Davies, a 23-year-old right-hander who was once thought to be a can't-miss prospect.
"He is another good arm added to our bullpen mix," Schuerholz said of Dotel, who converted 11 of his 14 save opportunities with the Royals this year. "He gives us more depth and gives Bobby more options out there. We think it makes us much stronger out there."
When the season began, optimism surrounding the Braves focused on their bullpen, which took a blow in mid-May when Mike Gonzalez needed season-ending elbow surgery. Now with Dotel, Rafael Soriano and Bob Wickman, they once again feel they have three legitimate closers at the back end of their bullpen.
"I think everybody was content thinking that we might get Teixeira and maybe a lefty in the deal," Chipper Jones said. "[Schuerholz] addressed two needs in one trade, but didn't stop there. Not only did he give us a deep lineup, but he's also given us the chance of having a very deep bullpen."
The additions of Mahay and Dotel certainly strengthened the 'pen. Ring, who was acquired from the Padres at a comparatively bargain price, could truly provide enviable depth. The 26-year-old southpaw will be sent to Triple-A Richmond and likely join the big league squad before the Braves head to New York and Philadelphia next week.
Most of this season, the Braves have lacked a situational left-hander. Now with Mahay and Ring, who was exchanged for lefties Wil Ledezma and Will Startup, they have the arms that can neutralize the potent left-handed duos possessed by the Phillies (Chase Utley and Ryan Howard) and Mets (Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green).
"It's set up," Jones said. "Now we just have to take care of business between the lines."
Although a desirable starting pitcher wasn't available, there's still a chance the Braves could acquire one via a waiver-wire trade in August. If they are able to do so, it will only increase the World Series buzz that the Braves players were feeling by the time Tuesday night's game against the Astros started.
"I think it's a legitimate buzz," Schuerholz said. "If that's what has been created, then we're happy we were able to get it done."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.