Schuerholz eyes prize

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

On the surface, the Atlanta Braves acquiring Mark Teixeira, which is expected today, is similar to a deadline deal made in 1993.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz obtained Fred McGriff from the San Diego Padres for Melvin Nieves, Donnie Elliott (no relation) and minor-leaguer Vince Moore.

Schuerholz reached an agreement with the Texas Rangers yesterday for Teixeira to try to begin a new string of 14 National League East titles.

The Braves will add clean-up hitter Teixeira, 27, and lefty reliever Ron Mahay, 36, for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 22, along with two minor leaguers in shortstop Elvis Andrus, 18, pitcher Neftali Feliz, 19, and a player to be named.

"This deal was text-book Schuerholz, the Braves weren't going to deal Saltalamacchia. They told teams they didn't want to deal Saltalamacchia," XM-Radio host and former Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez said.

"Then they move him for the best player available. This is so typical of Schuerholz. He doesn't talk about deals or allow leaks, he just makes them and outsmarts everyone."

The NL East-leading New York Mets and their fractured clubhouse led the Philadelphia Phillies by 31/2 games and the Braves by 41/2 going into yesterday's play.

The Phillies are 11/2 back in the wild-card chase, while the Braves are 2 1/2 behind.

The Phillies countered by adding righty Kyle Lohse, 6-12 with a 4.58 earned run average from the Cincinnati Reds.

The Mets countered by making a deal for Minnesota Twins second baseman Luis Castillo for two minor leaguers, including double-A catcher Drew Butera, son of Sal Butera, the Blue Jays vice-president.

So, one household in the Jays organization was active -- sort of -- as today's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

Teixeira averaged 35 homers, 119 RBIs and a .282 batting average in his first four seasons as a Ranger. This season, he's hitting .297 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs.

Only Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Eddie Mathews, plus St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols and Teixeira hit 140 homers in their first four years.

McGriff was with the Braves 41/2 seasons. He hit 120 homers and three times was an all-star as each October when the Braves reached the playoffs, including 1995 when they won the World Series in Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians.

The Braves are only sure of having Teixeira around until the end of next season. He's represented by super agent Scott Boras and Teixeira will likely test free agency.

Manager Bobby Cox can now field a lineup of: 1. Left fielder Willie Harris; 2. Shortstop Edgar Renteria; 3. Third baseman Chipper Jones; 4. Centre fielder Andruw Jones; 5. Teixeira; 6. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur; 7. Catcher Brian McCann; 8. Second baseman Kelly Johnson and the pitcher.

"I imagine they'll go switch hitter (Chipper Jones), right-handed hitter (Andruw Jones), switch hitter (Teixeira), he'll be there to protect Andruw," Martinez said. "This deal protects them for next season if Andruw leaves."

Schuerholz has improved the Braves offence, but do they have enough starting pitching?

The team's first basemen, Cambridge's Scott Thorman, Craig Wilson, Saltalamacchia, Julio Franco, Chris Woodward and Matt Diaz -- were tied for last in the majors with a .211 average, last in RBIs with 41 and tied for 18th with 12 homers.

What now for Thorman? He could be moved to the Kansas City Royals as the Braves chase reliever Octavio Dotel. K.C. wants starter Kyle Davies from the Braves. While the Braves sought Eric Gagne for the 'pen, Mahay is an upgrade over Wil Ledezma. Mahay was 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in 28 games with the Rangers, walking 21 and striking out 32 in 39 innings. The Braves are intent on being part of the post-season picture again after taking 2006 off. After all, TBS has the post-season rights.


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