Teixeira Heads Back To Atlanta

The Deal
The Braves acquired slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira and lefthander Ron Mahay for five prospects Monday in a long-anticipated trade with the Rangers. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, righthander Neftali Feliz and lefties Matt Harrison and Beau Jones were traded to Texas.
The Big Leaguers
Ralph Kiner, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews were the only players to hit more than the 140 home runs Teixeria had in his first four seasons. A switch-hitter taken fifth overall in the 2001 draft, Teixeira has been deadly from both sides of the plate in his career, hitting .274/.361/.525 as a lefthanded batter and .308/.385/.556 from the right side. Though he moved off third base early in his major league career, Teixeira, 27, played the position at Georgia Tech and in the minors, and he remains one of the rangiest and strongest-armed first basemen in the game. In fact, he’s won consecutive Gold Glove awards. Before missing 27 games this season with a strained left quadriceps, Teixeira had played in a Rangers-record 507 straight games–a feat made more impressive by the Texas heat he’s had to endure.

The 36-year-old Mahay gives the Braves their only bullpen lefty–though in actuality, lefthanded batters have hit him a little harder this year. For his career, Mahay has held same-siders to a line of .235/.315/.408. An 18th-round pick of the Red Sox in 1991, Mahay has pitched for five teams in 11 big league seasons. He made the majors as an outfielder in 1995 with the Red Sox before going back to the minors and reaching the big leagues as a pitcher in 1997. Mahay also was a replacement player during spring training in 1995.

The Prospects
The Braves give up their Nos. 1, 2 and 3 prospects in the deal. Saltalamacchia, 22, who was a supplemental first-round pick in 2003, re-established his value in a major way this season after a middling 2006 season at Double-A Mississippi. Saltalamacchia hit just .230/.353/.380 last year but had a wrist injury that held him back. He hit .309/.404/.617 in 81 at-bats at Mississippi before getting his first callup this May, and he took full advantage, even while spending time at first base for the first time. Saltalamacchia was expendable to Atlanta because of Brian McCann, but he could blossom into one of the game’s best catchers as a switch-hitter with power. His bat (.284/.333/.411 in Atlanta) is ahead of his glove (he’s thrown out just 19 percent of big league basestealers in 26 tries), but he’s athletic and has a strong arm. Defensively, he should eventually be average.

Andrus, 18, is one of the youngest players in the Carolina League and is a classic projection prospect. His .700 on-base plus slugging mark in July ’07 is his best month of the year offensively, and while he was named to the World roster for the Futures Game, the Venezuela product has yet to hit enough to project as a big league regular. However, managers named him the Carolina League’s Most Exciting Player in this year’s Best Tools survey, and he’s an above-average defender with excellent hands, range and arm strength. His future value will depend on his progress offensively, where he must gain strength and some plate discipline.

The 21-year-old Harrison’s velocity dipped in a recent start, leading the Rangers to
check into his health record. The North Carolina prep product has good
sink on his high 80s fastball (which at times touches 92 mph), a plus
changeup and good curveball, and profiles as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
He keeps the ball down as evidenced by his low home-run ratio (six in
117 innings), but has lost his last six decisions at Mississippi,
despite a 3.22 ERA in 50 innings over that span.

Feliz, 19, had the best fastball in the Braves system and dominated at times in Rookie ball with it, but he hasn’t progressed to full-season ball yet. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good life and he can touch the mid-90s with ease. He also throws a slider and changeup, but his bigger problem is harnessing his command. He’s walked 26 in 55 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues.

Jones, 20, was announced as the fifth prospect in the deal Tuesday, one day after it was reported the Rangers would be receiving four prospects. A supplemental first-round pick in 2005 from a Louisiana high school, Jones has a low-90s fastball that reaches 95 mph and has nice movement. His high-70s curveball shows signs of developing into an out pitch, but his changeup remains a work in progress. In his third pro season, Jones was back with low Class A Rome after posting a 15.26 ERA for high Class A Myrtle Beach. He has gone 5-0, 2.96 in 21 relief appearances for the R-Braves.

Quick Take
The Braves get a needed lefty reliever and the best player on the trade market in Teixeira, a player who can help offset the potential loss of Andruw Jones as a free agent. Teixeira returns to the scene of his college career; he was the College Player of the Year in 2000 as a sophomore at Georgia Tech. He improves the Braves’ worst position as much as possible. The Mets and Phillies made moves, too, and set the stage for what should be an outstanding National League East race. Atlanta gave up its best prospects to get Teixeira, who can become a free agent after the 2008 season, and if they can make the playoffs–still a big if–they would have to be considered the favorite due to their experience, 1-2 pitching punch of John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, and imposing, American League-caliber lineup. The Rangers got a potential franchise building block in Saltalamacchia, a polished lefthander at Double-A in Harrison and lots of projection–a good haul for a player of Teixeira’s stature and contract status.

" Trade Central 2007