07/29/08 9:12 PM ET
Braves deal Teixeira for Kotchman
First baseman and Minor League pitcher acquired for slugger
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
While Casey Kotchman might not currently possess the same caliber of talent as Teixeira, the Braves believe he has the capability of reaching that level to aid them as they attempt to return to prominence next year.
This is the message Wren delivered at Turner Field on Tuesday night, when he announced that Teixeira had been traded to the Angels in exchange for Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Stephen Marek.
"This is obviously not the way we wanted the season to end and go forward, but we look at it as building for the future," Wren said. "We really believe this is the first step in going forward, and Casey Kotchman is a player that we can envision playing first base for us for the next several years."
With Kotchman, who is expected to be with the Braves on Wednesday, Wren gained the first baseman that he was seeking as compensation for Teixeira. The 25-year-old slugger had batted .287 with a career-high 12 homers and 54 RBIs with the Angels this year.
When he received news of the trade, Kotchman said that he looked forward to playing for Braves manager Bobby Cox.
"I've just seen him from the outside, how he handles players, how he's pulling for them," Kotchman said. "I'm excited. There's nothing negative out of this."
"He is still improving as a Major League player," Wren said. "We think he's going to be better yet. He's a good player now, and he's a player that we'll have [at least] for the next three years. He's going to be a real key piece for our club as we move forward."
While parting ways with Teixeira, the Braves officially erased the grand visions they had when they acquired him from the Rangers at last year's Trade Deadline. Even though the switch-hitting first baseman proved to be an offensive force, he wasn't able to compensate for the rash of injuries that have dashed Atlanta's postseason hopes both of the past two seasons.
But while Teixeira has an opportunity to directly affect the Angels as they attempt to realize their World Series dreams this year, he also will indirectly play a role in the future of the Braves.
Kotchman will be arbitration-eligible during each of the next three offseasons. As a "Super Two" player, he gained a $1.45 million salary for this season.
"This is a the first step in our plans to put players back on our club to contend again next year," Wren said.
Wren's focus now turns to potentially moving other players, namely Will Ohman, and gaining more talent that could aid his club as soon as next year. If possible, he'd like to gain a power-hitting outfielder before Thursday's Trade Deadline.
Teixeira, who hit .295 with 37 homers and a .943 OPS (on-base-percentage-plus-slugging percentage) in the 157 games he played with the Braves, said Tuesday's development was "bittersweet."
"I told everyone I love playing here," Teixeira said. "I love this team. I love Bobby Cox. He's an amazing man. He's an amazing manager. When my career is over, I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I played for Bobby Cox, I played with Chipper Jones, I played with John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, and those are things that I'm going to be proud of."
When told that Teixeira indicated he had envisioned playing the rest of his career with the Braves, Wren revealed that the Braves made a substantial contractual offer that was declined during Spring Training.
With Teixeira's offensive and defensive attributes, there's certainly reason to believe his agent, Scott Boras, can land him an annual salary that exceeds $20 million during this winter's free-agent market.
"We offered a very aggressive multiyear contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid players in the game, and it was not accepted," Wren said. "We knew from that discussion that we were not going to be able to sign him, and we didn't feel like it would be best for the club to go into the offseason just receiving [compensatory] Draft picks when we could get established Major League players to fit our plan going forward."
While there had been reports that the Braves would have liked to have gotten Conor Jackson from the Diamondbacks or James Loney from the Dodgers, Wren said that he believes Kotchman is a young player with the same kind of upside.
"We're going to miss Mark Teixeira, but at the same time, as we plan to improve our ballclub, we feel like we got the best player out there," Wren said. "So we're excited about that."
Although he made his Major League debut in 2004, Kotchman still hasn't had an opportunity to fully prove what he can do at the big league level. When it looked like he'd get his first true opportunity in 2006, he was sidelined for most of the season by mononucleosis.
While hitting .296 with 11 homers in 100 games last year, Kotchman was slowed by a concussion and multiple left hand ailments that he suffered in August.
This year, with health on his side, Kotchman has proven why he was considered the top prospect in the Angels organization in 2002, 2004 and 2005. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound, left-handed first baseman's 17.3 plate appearances-per-strikeout ratio ranked as the American League's best, and his .997 career fielding percentage indicates he can provide the same Gold Glove-caliber defense that Teixeira has displayed.
"Kotch did a great job for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We were actually winning because of him. I didn't think he was going to get traded. But you've got to give to get -- and we got it."
Marek, a 24-year-old right-hander, had posted a 3.66 ERA and limited opponents to a .223 batting average in 34 relief appearances for Double-A Arkansas this year. The hard-throwing hurler, who had been a starter before this season, has been assigned to the Double-A Mississippi club.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.