Teixeira trade only the beginning for the Braves?
Mark Teixeira was removed from tonight's lineup against the Cardinals and headed to Boston to join the Angels during their series at Fenway. Casey Kotchman might find himself hitting in the heart of the Braves order Wednesday evening as one of two players headed to the Braves.
While looking back at what the Braves traded for Teixeira last year, and what they got this year—they certainly gave up a lot. However, the Braves did get what they wanted in return for a player that was most likely to leave as a free agent—a major league-ready first baseman.
Casey Kotchman is not in Teixeira's class, at least right now. He has respectable numbers of .287-12-54, but is still only 25 years old and won't be a free agent for at least three more years. First base was the one position the Braves did not have a prospect in their minor league system ready to take over either this year or next.
There were reports of a possible expanded trade with Will Ohman or Mike Gonzalez headed to the Angels as well. However, Ohman's departure is more likely as several teams are interested in acquiring the services of the lefty reliever. Unless Atlanta got blown away with a trade offer, Gonzalez should be staying put as he has been effective closing out the few save chances he's had.
Also getting attention from other teams' scouts are Brent Lillibridge and Brandon Jones, both currently at AAA Richmond. The Orioles have expressed interest, and perhaps the Pirates would be interested in re-acquiring their former prospect in a trade that would send Jones, Lillibridge and one or two low level pitchers to Pittsburgh for outfielder Jason Bay.
The trade would make sense for both teams. Bay is signed for the 2009 season and would fill the Braves' desire for a power outfield bat. Brandon Jones has decent potential as a left field bat and is major league-ready. Lillibridge would be the replacement for Jack Wilson at shortstop for the Pirates.
However, the Pirates request for additional pitchers is most likely a bit much, as they'd be getting two major league ready players for a player who has one year left on his contract. As compared to Teixeira, Jason Bay would be most likely easier for the Braves to re-sign as he doesn't have Scott Boras as his agent, and would be a much less expensive option and give the Braves more payroll flexibility.
The payroll flexibility may be key as Tim Hudson may be finished for the season with tightness in his elbow. With perhaps $40 million available in the Braves' 2009 payroll, coupled with the concern over their ace's pitching elbow, Atlanta could very well set their sights on free-agent-to-be CC Sabathia during the offseason. The Braves might need an ace, and really don't have a left-handed starter set for their 2009 rotation.
Watching the Braves game tonight on MLB extra innings, the Cardinals announcers also threw out Kelly Johnson along with Will Ohman as possible acquisitions this deadline for St. Louis, along with Jeff Francoeur as "available for the right price."
Teixeira's already gone. Will Ohman might be next. Might Mark Kotsay, Brent Lillibridge and/or Brandon Jones be joining them as former Braves?
My previous article looked at the Braves a few years down the road when some of the lower level prospects are nearing or at the time of a major league promotion. However, with a couple of potential trades being considered either before Thursday's deadline or in the offseason the Braves' roster could be very competitive in 2009. Consider this lineup if a few moves happen.
CF - Gregor Blanco
SS - Yunel Escobar
3B - Chipper Jones
C - Brian McCann
LF - Jason Bay
1B - Casey Kotchman
RF - Jeff Francoeur
2B - Kelly Johnson
with bench players
C - Clint Sammons
IF - Omar Infante
IF - Martin Prado
OF - Josh Anderson
RHP - Tim Hudson
LHP - CC Sabathia
RHP - John Smoltz
RHP - Jair Jurrjens
RHP - Jorge Campillo
RHP - Rafael Soriano
LHP - Mike Gonzalez
RHP - Blaine Boyer
RHP - Zach Schreiber
RHP - Jeff Bennett
LHP - Royce Ring
RHP - Manny Acosta
The Braves 2008 season right now is essentially over. The Teixeira trade means the Braves are looking ahead to 2009 and beyond. But with a few more moves that the Braves could make, Atlanta could very well be back in contention before too long.
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