By Charles Odum
ATLANTA - Mark Teixeira found himself in a pennant race Tuesday, when the Atlanta Braves finalized a seven-player trade to acquire him from the Texas Rangers.
The Braves sent rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers to Texas for the powerful, switch-hitting Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay. The two new Braves were not expected in Atlanta for Tuesday night's game against Houston.
Texas acquired Saltalamacchia, slick-fielding shortstop Elvis Andrus, right-hander Neftali Feliz, left-hander Matt Harrison and left-hander Beau Jones.
The swap for Teixeira is already inspiring comparisons to the Braves' 1993 deadline trade for first baseman Fred McGriff.
Atlanta trailed the New York Mets by 4 1/2 games in the NL East entering Tuesday and is in the thick of the wild-card race. The Mets ended the Braves' streak of 14 straight division titles last year.
Teixeira may replace Andruw Jones, hitting .216, as Atlanta's cleanup hitter. He joins a lineup that also includes Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur and All-Star Brian McCann, but he won't come cheaply.
Teixeira, making $9 million this year, is eligible for salary arbitration after this season and can become a free agent after the 2008 season. He is represented by agent Scott Boras.
The 27-year-old Teixeira is familiar with the Atlanta area, having starred at Georgia Tech.
Braves general manager John Schuerholz acquired closer Bob Wickman from Cleveland on July 20 last season, but this would be his biggest trade-deadline deal since July 18, 1993, when he sent outfielders Melvin Nieves and Vincent Moore and pitcher Donnie Elliott to San Diego for McGriff.
In 1993, the Braves were 10 games out on July 22 but rallied to win the NL West. McGriff, who joined David Justice and Ron Gant to give Atlanta three players with 100 RBIs, was credited with sparking the second-half surge.
The Braves hope Teixeira can provide a similar lift to their hopes of returning to the postseason this year.
Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter with power, has spent time at first base this season as the Braves tried to find a way to utilize his bat. His strong throwing arm is best utilized at catcher, however.
In Atlanta, Saltalamacchia's path at catcher was blocked by the 23-year-old McCann, who this spring signed a six-year, $26.8 million deal.
Mahay, 36, is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA and one save in 28 games this season. He is an important part of the deal for the Braves, who were left with no left-handed reliever after Wilfredo Ledezma was designated for assignment on Sunday.
Teixeira, hitting .297 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs, would give the Braves a home-run threat at first base they lacked after trading Adam LaRoche to Pittsburgh in the offseason. Teixeira, a two-time Gold Glove winner, also would be a defensive upgrade.
Teixeira missed 27 games this season with a left quadriceps injury but played in 162 games in 2005 and 2006.
The Braves failed in their attempt at a patchwork fix at first base after trading LaRoche. Atlanta's first basemen rank last in the major leagues with their .211 batting average, .270 on-base percentage and .363 slugging percentage.
The Braves opened the season with Craig Wilson and Scott Thorman splitting time at first base. Wilson was released after hitting only .172. Thorman is hitting .220 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs, and his future with the team is uncertain.
Saltalamacchia struggled defensively at first base, a position he had not played since high school. The Braves signed 48-year-old Julio Franco on July 18 after Franco was released by the Mets.
Teixeira has hit 153 homers in five seasons. He set career highs with 43 homers and 144 RBIs in 2005.
Saltalamacchia, 22, is hitting .284 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 141 at-bats.
Andrus, 19, is best known for his strong defense at shortstop, but he plays a position of great depth in the Braves' organization.