- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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On Tuesday, the Angels made the kind of deadline blockbuster they're often accused of never making when they traded first baseman Casey Kotchman and pitching prospect Stephen Marek to Atlanta for the right to run Teixeira out there as their first baseman for the next two months.
"Hopefully I can just go over there and be one more piece of the puzzle," Teixeira said before the Braves hosted St. Louis.
Initially, according to a source, the Braves asked for Kotchman, top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart and a third player in exchange for Teixeira. But the Angels told Atlanta that although they might be willing to talk about, essentially, a Kotchman-for-Teixeira swap even up, they were not willing to open a hole in their club for either 2008 or 2009. The clubs then compromised Tuesday afternoon by agreeing on Marek, a 24-year-old Double-A right-hander who wasn't regarded as one of the Angels' premier prospects.
The Braves also had talked to the Diamondbacks, Rays and Red Sox about Teixeira, and the Yankees and Dodgers also had checked in peripherally. But the Angels surprised the baseball world by bearing down hard on that middle-of-the-order bat that now transforms them into the official 2008 Best Team in Baseball.
"Our goal is to win a world championship," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "The team is playing well at this point, but being able to add a player like Mark Teixeira just makes us that much better."
The Angels already have the best record in the game (65-40). But their offense ranks just ninth in the American League in runs scored and 11th in on-base percentage. And their .399 team slugging percentage ranks 10th in the AL and 22nd in baseball.
Now they can slot Teixeira, a 28-year-old switch-hitter with Gold Glove defensive skills, into their lineup to hit behind Vladimir Guerrero. They also get a player who is familiar with life in the AL West from his four-plus seasons in Texas. And they get an offensive force who has averaged about 35 homers and close to 40 doubles per full season since 2004, with a .291 batting average, .381 on-base percentage, .546 slugging percentage and .927 OPS.
"They have the best team in baseball. I'm not going to go over there and make them any different, other than just hopefully add a few more runs. They have all the pitching they need, they have great defense," Teixeira said.
He added: "It's a little bittersweet. I really enjoyed my time here. I had a great year here. I love this team. I love this organization. I love this city. It's tough to leave. But at the same time I have a great opportunity in Anaheim, and I'm looking forward to it. The last couple days I knew it was coming, so I prepared for it."
The Angels didn't ask for a window to negotiate an extension with Teixeira. But they're expected to make a massive effort to sign him to a long-term deal, now that they've traded their everyday first baseman and a player they were especially fond of in Kotchman. But Teixeira is a Scott Boras client. And early rumblings are that his initial asking price will be in the neighborhood of 10 years, $230 million.
The Braves, meanwhile, prioritized getting back a first baseman to replace Teixeira. And although they weren't able to get the larger package they'd hoped for -- or one that even approached the five players they gave up for Teixeira last year -- they did get a first baseman who can't become a free agent until after the 2011 season.
They'll lose power production, because Kotchman has hit only 31 homers in 1,137 big league at-bats and owns just a .426 career slugging percentage. But the Angels believed he would develop power as he progressed. And his home run ratio away from home (one every 31.9 at-bats) was much better than his ratio in Anaheim (one every 44.3 at-bats). He already has a career-high 12 home runs this season.
Atlanta acquired Teixeira on July 31, 2007, at the trading deadline in a seven-player deal that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas. Beset by injuries, the Braves have struggled below .500 this season and have fallen to the fringe of the NL East race.
"This is obviously not the way we wanted the season to end and go forward. We look at it as building for the future," Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
In his 157 games in Atlanta, Teixeira hit 37 home runs and drove in more runs (134) than any player in the major leagues except Ryan Howard.
Kotchman had been in the Angels' lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox, batting second and playing first base. He was replaced at first by Robb Quinlan, who batted eighth in the Angels' 6-2 win.
Within a few days, Teixeira will be occupying that spot for the Angels. He said his family planned to stay in Boras' California guest house for the time being.
Teixeira said there was a time when he would've signed a deal with Atlanta and bypassed the possibility of free agency.
"I was always open for it. This whole year I was open for it. But that's business. It just didn't work out," he said. "I loved it here. I really did. I wanted to stay here for the rest of my career. But business is business. Sometimes you have to move on and I'm looking forward to moving on to L.A."
Wren said the team was rebuffed in spring training when it offered Teixeira a deal that would have made him "one of the highest-paid players in the game."
There were no further contract discussions between Wren and Boras.
"We offered him a very aggressive, multiyear contract," Wren said. "When he didn't take that, we knew we wouldn't be able to re-sign him."
Teixeira said the negotiations with the Braves were nothing more than "one phone call."
"Then we moved on," he said. "I've always been a player who believes if I go out and do my job on the field, contracts will take care of themselves. That's my plan."
Marek was a 40th-round draft pick of the Angels in 2004. He was a starter in his first three pro seasons. But the Angels were using him in middle relief at Arkansas, where he was 2-6 with a 3.66 ERA and an impressive 57 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.
Jayson Stark covers major league baseball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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