07.30.07

Atlanta Lands The Deadline’s Big Prize

Posted in Baseball at 1:12 pm by

Not only is this potentially bad, bad news for the New York Mets, but I’m also dreading the prospect of watching TV most of Tuesday afternoon for the sole purpose of learning Kyle Lohse’s next destination. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien :

The Braves have finalized a major trade for Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, a deal that will also bring them much-needed bullpen help in the form of veteran left-hander Ron Mahay. An announcement is expected soon.

They’re paying a hefty price, sending a four-prospect package to the Rangers that includes switch-hitting rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, slick-fielding infield prospect Elvis Andrus, left-handed prospect Matt Harrison and another, lesser pitching prospect whose identity wasn’t yet known.

The Braves decided it was a price worth paying to fill arguably their most glaring weaknesses. They had no left-handed reliever, and their first basemen ranked last in the majors in most major offensive categories.

It could be the most significant midseason trade for the Braves in 14 years, since they got first baseman Fred McGriff from San Diego on July 18, 1993. The Braves hope Teixeira will help spark a playoff drive just as McGriff did.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney is amongst those who figure Rangers GM Jon Daniels did pretty well today considering the circumstances.

Teixeira will be eligible for free agency in 15 months, and he’s represented by agent Scott Boras, who takes his clients into free agency almost every opportunity he gets, and Texas had no plans for signing Teixeira; rival executives became convinced early last week that Teixeira was going to be traded.

But despite all of that, Daniels wound up getting Saltalamacchia, a 22-year-old catcher who is thought by some of his teammates to be at least the equal of solid Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, and perhaps even better — and Saltalamacchia can flat-out rake. In 141 big-league at-bats, he’s hitting .284, after hitting well at every level in the minors. In Texas’ bandbox, he is liable to become a 30-homer threat sometime in the next few years. Andrus is probably years away from playing in the big leagues, and he is rough around the edges — he has 25 errors in Class A this year — but he has a chance to be very good, according to the evaluators who’ve seen him.

The deal reminds me a little of the fire-sale trades made by the Padres in 1993. At the time, San Diego swapped perennial All-Star Gary Sheffield for young players that casual fans wouldn’t know, and Padres GM Randy Smith was excoriated for the deal. And one of those three young players is going to the Hall of Fame — Trevor Hoffman — rather then just a middle reliever with a great arm.

Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheenan goes a bit further in praise of Daniels, implying that Atlanta’s John Shuerholz might’ve been fleeced.

Not to take anything away from Teixeira, but I just don’t see where he’s going to be so much better than Saltalamacchia over the next 800 ABs to warrant throwing Andrus and pitchers into a deal.

The Braves could have played Saltalamacchia at first this year–they were prior to adding Julio Franco–gotten 85% of Teixeira in the process and retained considerable trade value for this winter. Teixeira makes them a little better, but–and I may be overrating Salty–I don’t think it’s a massive upgrade.

The one caveat I have to mention is John Schuerholz’s track record. The Braves seem to do a very good job of trading away prospects at or near their peak value, prospects who often go on to disappoint. It’s worth keeping in mind.

One Response to “Atlanta Lands The Deadline’s Big Prize”

  1. Rog says:

    Lohse is already gone, mandude. When the Braves get Dotel it will be very interesting. Interesting because it will mean that the Mets will collapse and every single move that Minaya has made will be scrutinized by the adorable New York media.

Leave a Reply