Braves Finalize Trade for Mark Teixeira

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer



Mark Teixeira landed in Atlanta on Tuesday and right away, there was bold talk in the Braves clubhouse.

"Yes, we've got the team to win the World Series," All-Star catcher Brian McCann said.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz pulled off three deals before the 4 p.m. deadline to make trades without waivers. The biggest was the seven-player swap to get Teixeira from the Texas Rangers.

Atlanta began the day 4 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and in the middle of the wild-card chase. The Braves also wound up with Kansas City reliever Octavio Dotel and San Diego reliever Royce Ring.

After three weeks of negotiations, the Braves sent rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers to Texas for the powerful, switch-hitting Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks said the deal was made only after the star first baseman and his agent, Scott Boras, turned down an offer for an eight-year, $140 million contract extension.

"We told Boras that if our offer was turned down, we would trade Tex now if we received an appropriate offer, or during the offseason if not," Hicks told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

Teixeira is batting .297 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. He has hit 153 homers in five seasons, setting career highs with 43 homers and 144 RBIs in 2005.

Teixeira earned his first ovation from Atlanta fans as the Turner Field video board showed the first baseman, wearing his No. 24 uniform, in the dugout in the bottom of the seventh. Fans cheered louder after Teixeira waved his hand in response to the warm welcome.

Teixeira, already sweating after taking batting practice in the team's indoor cage, wasn't used in the Braves' 12-4 win.

Teixeira played at Georgia Tech and his wife, Leigh, is from Habersham County, near Atlanta. He said those factors, and the Braves' status as a playoff contender, make him happy to be in Atlanta.

"It's more relief," he said. "You hear a few teams and you're like you don't want to end up there."

Teixeira was assigned a locker beside Chipper Jones, another switch-hitter who he said was his favorite player as a high school third baseman.

"I thought that was the player I want to be," Teixeira said, adding he wore Jones' No. 10.

Texas also landed slick-fielding shortstop Elvis Andrus and three pitchers: right-hander Neftali Feliz, left-hander Matt Harrison and left-hander Beau Jones. Saltalamacchia and Andrus were rated as the Braves' top prospects before the season.

"The Rangers got a haul," Houston manager Phil Garner said before Tuesday night's game against the Braves. "But it was a good deal for both sides."

Atlanta made two more trades to bolster its bullpen, getting Dotel for pitcher Kyle Davies and the left-handed Ring for pitchers Wil Ledezma and Will Startup. Ring was assigned to Triple-A Richmond.

The trades created a confident buzz in the Braves clubhouse.

"We've got a World Series team," shortstop Edgar Renteria said. "That makes the whole lineup more dangerous. It's exciting."

Pitcher Tim Hudson joined the chorus, saying, "Seems like they're trying to make us win a World Series around here."

Schuerholz faced immediate questions about the chances of keeping Teixeira, who can be a free agent after the 2008 season.

When asked if it would be worth giving up so many prospects if Teixeira is in Atlanta for only two years, Schuerholz shrugged.

"I'll think about next year next year," Schuerholz said.

"If we win two pennants it is, or one World Series and one pennant. We wouldn't have done it if we didn't think it was worth it. We hope the result is that we win because of it, but there are no guarantees in baseball."

Teixeira may replace Andruw Jones, hitting .216, as Atlanta's cleanup hitter. Braves manager Bobby Cox said he wouldn't disclose those plans before talking with players.

"He's a great middle of the lineup hitter," Cox said of Teixeira. "He'll be in the middle."

"I think it's as good as it can get. We were hitting the ball pretty darn good to begin with, but we've got a huge hitter in the middle now."

The 27-year-old Teixeira may bat behind Chipper Jones, another switch-hitter.

Teixeira, making $9 million this year, is eligible for salary arbitration after this season.

Teixeira is familiar with the Atlanta area, having starred at Georgia Tech.

Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter with power, has spent time at first base this season as the Braves tried to find a way to use his bat. His strong throwing arm is best utilized at catcher, however.

In Atlanta, Saltalamacchia's path at catcher was blocked by the 23-year-old McCann, who this spring signed a six-year, $26.8 million deal.

Mahay, 36, is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA and one save in 28 games this season. He is an important part of the deal for the Braves, who were left with no left-handed reliever after Ledezma was designated for assignment on Sunday.

Saltalamacchia, 22, is hitting .284 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 141 at-bats.

"You hate to see him go," Cox said. "He's a legitimate big league catcher right now. ... I like him a lot."

Andrus, 19, is best known for his strong defense at shortstop, but the Braves are well-stocked at the position with Renteria, rookie Yunel Escobar and minor leaguer Brent Lillibridge.

Dotel, a hard-throwing righty, missed most of the first two months with a strained left oblique. He spoke with Schuerholz following the trade.

Dotel, 31, is 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 11 saves in 14 chances. Davies, a 23-year-old righty, was 4-8 with a 5.76 ERA for Atlanta.

Davies spent most of the season in Atlanta's rotation before being demoted to Triple-A Richmond on July 19.

Ledezma started the season with Detroit, then was traded to Atlanta. He was ineffective with the Braves and recently designated for assignment.

The Braves called up catcher Corky Miller from Double-A Mississippi, giving the team a backup for McCann, and optioned reliever Chad Paronto to Richmond.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.

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