A lot of movement on O's pitch for Teixeira

ON BASEBALL

August 03, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

Observations, opinions and musings from last week in major league baseball.

When the Atlanta Braves dealt Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels for Casey Kotchman and a pitching prospect last week, an obvious question arose here:

What does it mean for the Orioles?

In terms of their chances to sign Teixeira as a free agent this offseason, the trade to the West Coast helped the Orioles' cause in one sense. And hurt it in another.

If the Angels get to the World Series - and they are the American League favorites right now - then the trade will really smart around here.

But first, a positive: The Braves are now out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. Kotchman is their cheap and talented first baseman of the future.

That's important because Atlanta is the only other place that could offer Teixeira what Baltimore can: a slice of home. Teixeira, who grew up in Severna Park and went to Mount St. Joseph, attended college at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. His wife is from Georgia. And, unlike the Orioles, the Braves have a recent legacy of winning (though that one is fading, too).

So Atlanta disappearing into the rearview mirror is an excellent thing for those who dream of Teixeira playing next to Brian Roberts at Camden Yards.

But here's the rub: He's now with the Angels, major league baseball's version of the University of Southern California. If you can play there when they are winning, why wouldn't you?

All the Angels have to offer is a well-run franchise, a huge budget, a willing owner, a tremendous manager, a roster of young and veteran stars, beautiful weather and a low-pressure environment in a big market. To top it off, Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, is an Angels season-ticket holder whose headquarters are a short drive from the stadium.

An agent's location might not matter in most cases, but it's definitely a plus for Boras' clients. His headquarters are like a a candy store for players, jammed with every conceivable service, including personal video archives, athletic training and financial-management assistance. Being close to the place certainly doesn't hurt.

Sure, Teixeira originally is an East Coast guy, but he has a home in Texas, so it's not as if he is tethered to the Atlantic Ocean. As one club executive said last week, "If he wins a ring this year, he'll stay there forever."

There are still plenty of baseball people who think he'll go to the highest bidder, which could be the New York Yankees or the Orioles.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been a champion of "financially responsible" contracts, but the sense is he would overpay to capture the Holy Grail of Severna Park, especially if it means making Teixeira a visitor at the new Yankee Stadium.

So call this one a bittersweet trade-deadline deal for Baltimore. One of the Orioles' stiffest competitors for Teixeira has dropped out. But another enticing one has emerged.

Deadline winners

Short term: Angels. Teixeira propels that lineup from good to scary. They already looked like the team to beat. Now they are the unquestioned favorites. The deal could backfire in a few years - if Teixeira leaves and Kotchman keeps developing - but that's the risk you take when you're on victory's doorstep.

Honorable mention: Yankees. They needed a catcher and added Ivan Rodriguez, who is not what he once was but is still pretty darn good. And they added depth with Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. Also, the Milwaukee Brewers' addition of CC Sabathia might be the best move of July.

For the future: Pittsburgh Pirates. They gave up some quality players but received six youngsters who were ranked in the top 20 by Baseball America in their respective organizations coming into the season, including a No. 2 (Andy LaRoche of the Los Angeles Dodgers) and a No. 3 (Jose Tabata of the Yankees).

Deadline losers

Missed the boat: Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, they should only get better and they are hesitant to part with young talent. But there's no guarantee they'll be in this position next year - baseball is fickle like that. So they should have seized the opportunity to add a quality hitter - Jason Bay or Nady - when they had the chance.

Honorable mention: Boston Red Sox. Bay is a fine player having a good season, but he's not Manny Ramirez, baseball's most feared clutch hitter. He and David Ortiz were a nightmare for opposing managers in the postseason. Boston can do without Ramirez's theatrics and distractions, but come October, the Red Sox will be searching for his bat.

A future whiff: Seattle Mariners. They are slow, old and expensive. They needed to purge as many bad contracts and marketable players as possible, but they didn't pull the trigger. Their two best pieces to trade, Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez, likely won't get through waivers, so they're stuck languishing in the basement.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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