One of the most lauded transactions by the Atlanta Braves in the past five years was the decision in 2008 to trade Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim just a year after the Braves acquired him for top rated prospects from the Texas Rangers.
While most of the complaints are that the Braves let go of Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, who have quickly blossomed into stars at the Major League level, others decry that since Teixeira was the best first baseman they had had in a long time, the team should have done its best to re-sign him following the 2008 season.
What is lost is that Teixeira was acquired as essentially a rental for the 2007 season, when the Braves finished just five games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves did re-sign Tex to avoid arbitration for 2008 to a one-year, $12.5 million contract. It then made sense to get something for him in the middle of 2008, considering his price was going to soar when he became a free agent. Though Casey Kotchman was obviously a downgrade, he held Atlanta over until the arrival of something – anything – better. It is also worth remember that the 2008 Braves finished 20 games back and with 90 losses.
Sure, Teixeira absolutely raked during his tenure in Atlanta. In 157 games – nearly a full season's worth of games – he churned out 37 homers and 137 RBIs while hitting .295. However, one must look at what he has done since signing with the New York Yankees.
The first thing he did was sign an eight-year, $180 million contract. Teixeira is currently making $22.5 million a year through 2016. The other thing he has done has hit 15 points below his career average during his three years in New York. The power numbers have still been there with 39 homers this year, but he hit an uncharacteristic .248 in 2011.
Or was it? Teixeira also hit .256 in 2010. With the fact that he hits in a very hitter friendly park, is this a sign that Teixeira's performance is on the decline? The Braves got similar performance from Dan Uggla to the tune of a .235 average with 36 home runs and 82 RBIs, but his output came in a pitcher's park, on a team that could not find its way on base and after hitting .173 on July 4. Uggla also happens to make about half of what Teixeira does.
The most direct comparison Braves fans can make is in Teixeira's direct, though very eventual, successor in Freddie Freeman.
Freeman's rookie year of 2011 is remarkably similar to Teixeira's first year in 2003 in terms of power. Tex cranked 26 homers and drove in 84 runs, while Freeman hit 21 homers with 76 RBIs. Freeman's average, however, was much higher than Teixeira's, leading .282-.259. The difference, much like Uggla, is that Freeman's rookie year was on a team that could not get on base in a pitcher's park, when Teixeira's year came in a hitter's park on a good offense.
Hardcore Tex believers may also point to the fact that he has actually gotten to play in the postseason, but, especially in recent days, Teixeira has really been more of a liability to the Yankees offense than anything.
In his 29 career postseason games, Teixeira is hitting a scant .202 with three home runs and 12 RBIs, anything but threatening. Through three games in their series against the Detroit Tigers, Teixeira has one hit in 11 at bats.
Though Freeman has never seen playoff action, the most clutch stretch he has been in was the Braves' epic September collapse. In 26 September games, Freeman hit .226 with three home runs and 12 RBIs, eerily similar to Tex's playoff production, but not hovering over the Mendoza line.
So, are the Braves better off with Freeman? If one looks at the fact that Freeman's $414,00 salary left room for the Braves to sign Uggla and potentially sign speedster Michael Bourn to a contract extension, they have essentially gotten three strong players for less than the price of one.
Braves fans should be happy for their prospects of not only 2012, but even beyond that.
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