Braves trying to avoid Teixeira repeat

sports@macon.comJuly 28, 2012 

Five years ago, the Atlanta Braves took a gamble. They needed another bat in the lineup, and Texas made first baseman Mark Teixeira available.

Scott Thorman had failed at first base after Atlanta traded away Adam LaRoche. The Braves had tried catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia at first, but it was obvious he was a catcher playing first base. So the Braves traded five young prospects to the Rangers for Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay.

Teixeira had the rest of 2007 and all of 2008 left on his contract. The Braves hoped Teixeira, who played college ball at Georgia Tech, would want to stay in Atlanta and sign a long-term contract.

But that never happened. Teixeira put up good numbers, but the Braves struggled. They tried to get him to re-sign, but Teixeira was looking for a landmark contract, so he was traded away for two players who are since long gone.

Four of the five players who were traded to Texas have turned out pretty good. Shortstop Elvis Andrus is a two-time All-Star. Neftali Feliz became the Rangers’ closer and helped them make two straight World Series trips. And Matt Harrison is having one of the best seasons for any pitcher in the AL this season.

Saltalamacchia was also in the deal. He has moved on to Boston, and ‘Salty’ is finally turning the corner with a great season for the Red Sox.

So the Braves went for it in 2007, and it backfired. They did not make the playoffs with Teixeira in the lineup. They did not re-sign Teixeira, and most of the players they traded for him have turned out to be pretty good players.

That trade almost has become a moniker for teams that want a lot in return for a player who will soon be a free agent. For instance, when Miami put starter Josh Johnson on the trade market last week, word got out that the Marlins wanted a “Teixeira-like return” for their ace pitcher.

Four days ago, I wrote the Braves didn’t need to panic. I thought they were about to do that if they had traded Randall Delgado, who has made 17 starts this season, to the Chicago Cubs for Ryan Dempster. The Chicago right-hander is a rental, as his contract is up at the end of this season. The 35-year-old Dempster blocked the trade, and thankfully Delgado is still with the Braves.

On Friday, the Braves lost out on another available pitcher, when Milwaukee traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels. Greinke will be a free agent this fall, right when he turns 29. In many ways, Atlanta’s interest in Greinke was similar to when it got Tim Hudson in 2004. He was near the same age as Greinke, and the Braves decided they wanted to invest in Hudson to head the rotation for the future.

Atlanta may still think it can sign Greinke this winter, but it’s going to be difficult. Los Angeles has been mentioned as one of the teams (along with Atlanta) that Greinke is interested in signing with for the long-term. But since he’ll be pitching for them, the Angels will have the advantage.

Los Angeles has not shied away from big contracts recently, giving Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson big deals last season. So if the Angels want Greinke past this season, it’s unlikely they’ll be outbid by Atlanta or any other team.

The Braves didn’t want to give up Julio Teheran, considered their best prospect, for Greinke. But if the Braves wanted Greinke to be their future top starter, wouldn’t that have made Teheran expendable? They basically would have replaced Teheran in their future rotation with Greinke, who has won a Cy Young Award. Teheran has a 5.34 ERA in 19 starts in his second season in Triple-A.

Teheran better be good. Atlanta just gambled that he’ll be just as good or better than someone they could have put at the top of the rotation. That’s for the future. Before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Braves better get someone to help them for the present. But if letting Greinke go to the Angels is any indication, don’t expect them to do any Teixeira-type deal to make it happen.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on twitter@yahoo.com.

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