Braves put Tex on move to Angels
Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 4:17 pm
By: By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Mark Teixeira sure is a popular player at the trade deadline.
A year ago he was acquired by the Atlanta Braves, who hoped the slugging first baseman could lead them back to the playoffs. That didn’t work out, so Teixeira is on the move again — this time to a team that almost surely will get him to the postseason for the first time in his career.
The Los Angeles Angels pulled off a blockbuster deal Tuesday to acquire Teixeira from the fading Braves, bolstering a team that already has the best record in baseball but won’t be satisfied with anything less than a World Series title.
“Our goal is to win a world championship,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. “The team is playing well at this point, but being able to add a player like Mark Teixeira just makes us that much better.”
Los Angeles sent first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steve Marek to the Braves, who raised the white flag on this season after a rash of key injuries.
“We have too many players hurt right now to really compete,” GM Frank Wren said. “It’s time to start rebuilding our club.”
Still, the idea of dumping a top player with more than two months left in the season was especially tough to take in Atlanta. After all, this is the franchise that won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 and was at least in contention for the playoffs the past two seasons.
“This is a first for all of us,” said third baseman Chipper Jones, another of the team’s injured players. “We’ve never been sellers before. We’re usually the ones adding, not subtracting.”
Teixeira said he was sorry to leave Atlanta but couldn’t hide his happiness at getting another shot at the playoffs.
“I told my teammates in Atlanta ’good luck,’ but at the same time I have a chance to win a World Series with the Angels,” he said.
He’s scheduled to arrive in Boston early thise afternoon and he might be in the lineup for a game against the Red Sox. The Angels maintained their 111/2-game lead in the AL West with a 6-2 victory at Fenway Park on Tuesday night — by far the most commanding lead for any first-place team.
Atlanta acquired Teixeira last July 31 at the trade deadline in a seven-player deal that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas. Despite the move, the Braves wound up five games behind NL East champ Philadelphia in third place, and it’s unlikely they will be nearly as close this season.
“The last couple days I knew it was coming, so I prepared for it,” Teixeira said. “It’s a little bittersweet. I really enjoyed my time here.”
He’s making $12.5 million and will be eligible for free agency after the season. Wren said the team was rebuffed in spring training when it offered Teixeira a deal that would have made him “one of the highest-paid players in the game.”
There were no further contract discussions between Wren and Teixeira’s agent, Scott Boras. With Atlanta fading in the East, Wren thought he had little choice but to get something of value before losing the 28-year-old Teixeira in what already appears to be a lost season.
After the trade, the Braves dropped their fourth in a row, 8-3 to St. Louis, and slipped a season-high 81/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets.
The Angels made the deal knowing they are unlikely to sign Teixeira to a long-term contract before everyone has a shot at him in free agency. In fact, the first baseman said he would prefer no negotiations with his new team until after the season.
That didn’t stop Los Angeles from locking up the deal with plenty of time to spare before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Teixeira was among the top names in the rumor mill, and should boost a club that wanted to add another big bat to back its potent pitching staff.
Teixeira is batting .283 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI. The switch hitter joins Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter in a lineup that ranks in the bottom half of the American League in average, homers and runs.
“They’ve always had great pitching, great defense and find a way to win games,” Teixeira said. “I want to be the one who hopefully gets them over the top.”
The Angels (66-40) won their only World Series title in 2002, and have spent millions more trying to win another championship.
“I’m not making any predictions. I’m not saying we’re the team to beat,” Teixeira said. “But I do know we have a great team.”
A two-time Gold Glove winner, Teixeira has hit at least 26 home runs in every season since making his big league debut with Texas in 2003. He hit a career-high 43 homers and was an All-Star in 2005, and has had four straight years with at least 100 RBI.
Still, he wasn’t much help to a team beset by injuries.
The Atlanta pitching staff was especially hard hit. John Smoltz underwent season-ending surgery on his shoulder, and the Braves fear another top starter, Tim Hudson, is done for the season after an MRI found ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Reliever Peter Moylan is also out for the year.
Kotchman is hitting .287 with 12 homers and 54 RBI. The Angels liked the 25-year-old’s future, but didn’t want to look past October with Teixeira available.
The Braves also got Marek, a 24-year-old righty. He was 2-6 with three saves and a 3.66 ERA as a reliever at Double-A Arkansas.
“I’m just excited to go to Atlanta and play for (manager) Bobby Cox,” Kotchman said before leaving Fenway Park for the airport. “At the same time, my teammates here, to leave them, I’ll be pulling for them.”
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.