For almost three years now, I have had to listen to Braves fans complain over and over again about Mark Teixeira and what his trade in 2007 did to Atlanta’s future. When one looks at what Atlanta gave up to acquire Tex for two half seasons of non-playoff baseball, it’s kind of hard not to be upset if you are a Braves fan. While the Braves instantly improved the Texas Rangers’ future by sending Texas their top three prospects, this deal could very well be why Atlanta is postseason bound in 2010.
On July 31st, 2007, the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves made a deal that helped the Rangers reach the postseason for the first time in 11 years. At the same time, it looked to have depleted the Braves’ bright future.
On that day, the Rangers traded 1B Mark Teixeira to the Texas Rangers for four prospects. Three of the four prospects have all contributed to the Rangers' 2010 AL West crown. Two of the three, P Neftali Feliz and SS Elvis Andrus, have been absolutely stellar and are key components to the recent success in Arlington.
Behind Feliz’s club record 40 saves and Andrus’s Gold Glove worthy play at SS, Texas was able to acquire its lowest team ERA in 20 years without a starting pitcher having an ERA below 3.30.
After the Braves went through two half seasons with no success with Tex, Atlanta decided to trade Teixeira and his expiring contract to the Angels in hope of getting back some of the talent they lost in acquiring the All-Star first baseman.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, they received Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek from the Angels.
Marek spent his 2010 season pitching for the Cedar Rapids Quakes while Kotchman batted just .217 as Seattle’s first baseman. All in all, the Braves traded Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus for Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek. Ouch.
So how in the world do the Braves still come out winners in this deal?
Luck, timing, and some more luck.
The reason the Braves traded Elvis Andrus is because, at the time, they had both Edgar Renteria and Yunel Escobar on the roster. Escobar was supposed to be the SS of the future but due to poor hitting and many allegations that he was a “cancer” in the locker room, he was sent off to Toronto for veteran SS Alex Gonzalez.
While Andrus is definitely the choice for the future, Gonzalez’s bat fits in much better with a Braves roster that is always desperate for a power source. Gonzalez has homered 23 times this season as both a Blue Jay and a Brave, which is two more than Braves’ leader Brian McCann. Yunel Escobar and Elvis Andrus have combined for only four homers this season between the two of them.
The other part of the luck equation for Atlanta is in closer Billy Wagner. A year ago the Braves had to have been sick watching Neftali Feliz close out games in Texas and dominate hitters with his triple digit fastball. After signing an injury-plagued Wagner in the offseason, Braves fans have all but forgotten about Feliz as Wagner has saved 37 games with a 1.43 ERA.
The Braves took a big risk on shelling out $7 million to a closer who appeared in just 62 ballgames over the past two seasons. The risk was rewarded as the 39-year-old Wagner appeared in 71 total games for Atlanta this season, his most since 2005, and had the lowest ERA of his 15-year career.
Braves fans have been upset with John Schuerholz ever since Mark Teixeira was let go for practically nothing in ’08. After the Braves realized a long-term deal with Tex wasn’t in their future, he was pawned off for two players who carried little or no value with the organization in the future.
Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus both should be good for a long time to come. That is the expectation, not the certainty.
In today’s win now society, the future is important but today is what matters. John Schuerholz traded for Mark Teixeira in 2007 to make the Braves an immediate contender and a winner for a season and a half. Although unsuccessful, this move could very well be the one game difference Atlanta needed this season to reach the postseason for the first time since its 13-year string of playoff appearances ended in 2006.