Braves ship Teixeira to Angels

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Associated Press

ATLANTA — The Los Angeles Angels acquired slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, a bold trade that further bolsters the team with the best record in the major leagues.

The Angels, with an 11 1/2-game lead in the AL West and primed for a World Series run, sent first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steve Marek to Atlanta.

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‘‘Hopefully, I can just go over there and be one more piece of the puzzle,’’ Teixeira said.

Teixeira is making $12.5 million and will be eligible for free agency after the season. Atlanta general manager Frank 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 plagued by injuries and fading in the NL East, Wren thought he had little choice but to get something of value before losing the 28-year-old Teixeira.

‘‘We offered him a very aggressive, multiyear contract,’’ Wren said. ‘‘When he didn’t take that, we knew we wouldn’t be able to re-sign him.’’

Teixeira said the negotiations with the Braves were nothing more than ‘‘one phone call.’’

‘‘Then we moved on,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve always been a player who believes if I go out and do my job on the field, contracts will take care of themselves. That’s my plan.’’

The Angels made the deal knowing they are unlikely to sign Teixeira to a long-term deal before everyone has a shot at him in free agency. In fact, the first baseman said he would prefer no contract talks with his new team until after the season.

That didn’t stop Los Angeles from pursuing the deal.

‘‘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.’’

The deal came two days before baseball’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 RBIs. 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.

‘‘The Angels have always been one of the best teams in the league,’’ Teixeira said. ‘‘They’ve always had great pitching, great defense and find a way to win games. I want to be the one who hopefully gets them over the top.’’

Los Angeles took a 65-40 record into Tuesday night’s game at Boston. The Angels won their only World Series title in 2002, and have spent millions more trying to win another title.

‘‘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 and I look forward to coming aboard.’’

Atlanta acquired Teixeira last July 31 at the trade deadline in a seven-player deal that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas. The Braves missed the playoffs, and this deal gives Teixeira his best chance to play in the postseason for the first time.

‘‘The last couple days I knew it was coming, so I prepared for it,’’ he said before leaving Turner Field. ‘‘It’s a little bittersweet. I really enjoyed my time here. I had a great year here. I love this team. I love this organization. I love this city. It’s tough to leave.’’

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 RBIs.

But the Braves went into Tuesday’s game against St. Louis trailing the New York Mets by 7 1/2 games in the NL East, with little chance of bouncing back after a rash of injuries — especially to the pitching staff.

John Smoltz underwent season-ending surgery on his shoulder, and Atlanta fears that another top starter, Tim Hudson, is done for the season after an MRI found ligament damage in his pitching elbow. Peter Moylan, expected to hold down the main setup role in the bullpen, also is out for the year.

After learning of Hudson’s injury and placing Chipper Jones on the 15-day disabled list Monday, Wren made it clear he was ready to put up the white flag. The team will likely miss the playoffs for the third straight year after once being a mainstay of the postseason, winning 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005.

‘‘We have too many players hurt right now to really compete,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s time to start rebuilding our club.’’

Kotchman is hitting .287 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs for the Angels, and he homered in Monday night’s win at Fenway Park. The Angels liked the 25-year-old’s future — but with Teixeira available, they didn’t want to look past October.

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.’’

Kotchman had been in the Angels lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Red Sox, batting second and playing first base. He was replaced at first by Robb Quinlan, who batted eighth.

Teixeira will soon be occupying first base for the Angels. He had already booked a Wednesday flight to Boston and figures to be at the ballpark in plenty of time to join the lineup. His family, meanwhile, plans to stay at Boras’ guest house in California for the time being.

‘‘It was important to get him in the fold today and get him in the lineup tomorrow,’’ Reagins said. ‘‘That’s how we pursued it.’’

Teixeira said there was time when he would’ve signed a deal with Atlanta and bypassed the possibility of free agency.

‘‘This whole year I was open for it. But that’s business. It just didn’t work out,’’ he said. ‘‘When my career is over I’m going to be able to tell my kids and my grandkids that I played for Bobby Cox and I played with Chipper Jones and I played with John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Those are things I’m going to be proud of.’’


AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.