- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Executives with other teams believe that the Texas Rangers are definitely intent on trading first baseman Mark Teixeira before the July 31 trade deadline, which would make Teixeira the most prominent player dealt.
Baseball executives believe the Atlanta Braves are the front-runners to acquire the first baseman.
The rival executives say that the Rangers' demands for Teixeira have come down bit by bit. In addition, the Rangers feel they can get one or more of the targeted prospects that they can ask for from the targeted teams. However, the Rangers dispute the notion that their price is coming down or that it's a slam dunk that they will trade Teixeira.
At the outset of the Teixeira trade talks, for example, the Rangers had insisted the Yankees include either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes and had asked the Dodgers, who have said they intend to go forward with James Loney as their first baseman, for three top prospects. They had asked the Red Sox for pitcher Clay Buchholz and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Angels and Giants are also involved in talks for Teixeira.
Teixeira, who will be eligible for salary arbitration after making $9 million this season, has refused to talk about the possibility of being traded.
"I'm done talking about it," Teixeira said Tuesday before the Rangers played a doubleheader against Seattle, repeating what has become a daily response.
At the start of the eight-game homestand Thursday, when Teixeira played in Arlington for the first time since going on the disabled list June 9, he said he was focused on the game.
"I know there is a business side of baseball. There is a playing side of baseball, and that is what I'm going to concentrate on the last two months of the season," he said last week. "Until someone tells me otherwise, I'm a Ranger. I love playing here."
But Teixeira, the No. 5 overall pick as a third baseman out of Georgia Tech in 2001, has also expressed his desire to play for a winning team. The Rangers didn't finish better than third in the AL
West with only one winning record his first four seasons, and they're in last place again this year.
Any team that acquires Teixeira would get more than a rent-a-player for the rest of this season. While Teixeira will be eligible for salary arbitration, he can't become a free agent until after 2008.
Only Ralph Kiner, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews hit more than the 140 homers that Teixeira had in his first four major league seasons. He had at least 33 homers and 110 RBIs in each of the past three.
Teixeira went into Tuesday hitting .302 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs despite missing 27 games because of a strained left quadriceps muscle sustained running out a ground ball. The Rangers were 16-11 when he was out of the lineup after he played in a team record 507 consecutive games.
"If Mark is not here, we are going to miss him because of what he brings to the table. This guy is a great ballplayer and can make a difference in a game," manager Ron Washington said Tuesday. "I don't think you can ever say because we won when Mark wasn't in the lineup that the team is better without him. This team is not better without him.
"My only statement to that is, we'll adjust," Washington said. "Because if Mark leaves here, we're getting something for him. So we'll adjust."
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.