Trade Breakdown: Do The Angels Really Need Mark Teixeira?

Greg JansenCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2008

The most recent move in baseball has Atlanta first baseman Mark Teixeira going to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  In return, the Braves receive first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek.

Teixeira has been another big name in trade talks all throughout this month as general managers look to add the pieces they need to make the final run into the postseason, or, as in the Braves case, sell off who they can to receive prospects for future years.

The Braves receive two of these prospects:  25-year-old Kotchman, who's hitting .287 with 12 home runs.  With his second full season in progress, he already has more homers than last year, and will surpass last year's RBI total.

Stephen Marek is a right-handed reliever in AA ball.  In 34 appearances, he averages more than a strikeout per inning.  His 3.66 ERA is a bit high, but opponents are batting a slim .223 against him.

The Braves receive two players that will definitely help them in the long run.  But the big question is whether the Angels need Teixeira.  He is definitely a puzzle piece the Angels are anticipating to be short-term, as he is a free-agent at the end of the year.  Unless the Angels want to pick up what will be a hefty paycheck (thanks to agent Scott Boras), he will not return to the team after the end of this year.

Which brings the question:  Do the Angels need Teixeira?

As of July 29, the Angels had the best winning percentage in baseball, and with a 66-40 record, they are ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs by four games.  They have a comfortable 12 game lead over the second-place Texas Rangers in their division.  They are one of five teams with a winning record both at home and away, and are the only team with a record ten games over .500 both home and away.

Surprisingly, they have done this with very little offense.  As a team, they do not rank above 15th in all of baseball in runs, hits, home runs, RBIs, or batting average.  Nobody has more than 17 home runs or 54 RBI.  Only second baseman Howie Kendrick has a batting average above .300.

However, their lineup has proven hitters with Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Garret Anderson, and Gary Matthews Jr.  These are guys, while probably on the downslope of their careers, can still hit well and also have playoff experience.  Add in younger guys like Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Maicer Izturis, and the Angels have an offense that isn't astounding, but plays with plenty of energy and experience to get the job done.

The Angels pitching has been carrying this team through their first 105 games.  They aren't exceptional, but they have been pitching very efficiently.  All five starters in their rotation have pitched 100-plus innings, with no ERA above 4.30.  The bullpen has only one pitcher with more than 50 appearances—closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is 44 of 47 in save opportunities.

Winning the division, barring an unforeseen meltdown, will be a piece of cake for the Angels.  The front office knows that, so they must believe Teixeira will help them win the American League pennant for the first time since 2002.

This trade will scare the rest of the American League.  The Angels get more firepower by adding Teixeira, who becomes the team leader in home runs and RBIs.  In Teixeira, they receive a player that more than fills the void lost at first base in the trade.  As strong as their pitching is, they can afford to trade someone like Marek.  Additionally, it's not hard to find a first baseman if they cannot reach a deal with Teixeira after this season.

The Angels had all the pieces to win the pennant without Teixeira.  Now with him, it's all but assured.