|The July 29 trade of Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek for Mark Teixeira gave “instant gratification” fans what they’d long demanded — flushing the future for a feel-good quick fix.|
When the Angels traded Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek on July 29 to the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira, I posed the question, “Would you trade fifteen years for three months?”
That’s pretty much what they’ve done, as free agent Teixeira seems close to deciding where he’ll cash in his Boras Bucks.
I never pay attention to rumors, but if you want to believe them the consensus has Teixeira going to the Boston Red Sox. The Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and maybe the Yankees are in the hunt along with the Angels.
Even if by some miracle Teixeira signs with Anaheim, it was still a foolish trade.
Here’s what I wrote on July 29:
The switch-hitting Teixeira has been one of the more prolific power hitters in the major leagues during his career. He hit 43 homers in 2005 and 33 in 2006 for Texas. After hitting another 13 for Texas in 2007, he was swapped to the Braves on July 31 for a boatload of prospects.
Teixeira didn’t do the Braves much good, which should be a warning to those who think flushing the farm system for a “name” somehow guarantees a world championship. (Believe me, those people are out there. Read the fan boards.) Not his fault, but individuals don’t win championships. Teams do.
So trading Casey Kotchman, one of the best young hitters in the game, along with bullpen prospect Stephen Marek for Teixeira strikes me as giving in to all those instant gratification people who scream “Win NOW!!!” without thinking about what happens next year and beyond.
Teixeira, 28, is a free agent at season’s end. His agent is Scott Boras. Teixeira didn’t sign an extension with the Braves, his hometown team, so why should we think he’ll sign an extension with the Angels?
If the Angels had been patient, in another few months they could have signed him on the open market. If successful, they could have then traded Kotchman for whatever they could get.
Does Teixeira guarantee a world championship? Of course not. He never won one with the Rangers, and he didn’t win one with the Braves. Again, not his fault, but one player does not make a champion.
Even if the Angels do manage to sign Teixeira to an extension, all they did was acquire him for two months and the post-season. Was it worth Kotchman and Marek? Did swapping Kotchman for Teixeira somehow significantly increase the statistical probability of winning the World Series? Of course not.
The post-season is pretty much a crap shoot. Some among fandom and the press have insisted the Angels could not win the World Series without a second “big bat” to complement Vlad Guerrero, our own version of Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Yet the Angels won their seventh in a row tonight against Boston, which is slumping in the A.L. East, and all seven were achieved without that “big bat.” In fact, Boston might not even reach the post-season.
We all know what happened. Boston got their act together, reached the playoffs as a wild card, and eliminated the Angels, who had the best winning percentage in baseball and Teixeira’s “big bat.”
The Angels dug their own grave, and are about to be buried in it.
Had they kept Kotchman, it’s anyone’s guess what might have happened. Casey left Atlanta in mid-August when his mother fell ill. He returned two weeks later. His AVG/OBP/SLG when he returned (.305/.394/.402) were much better than before he left (.180/.292/.246). We can only speculate how he would have performed had he stayed with the Angels, but had he left to tend to his mother the Angels would have had to rely on Kendry Morales at first base, who’s yet to have an extended audition at the major league level. Casey’s absence in late August wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because the Angels had a comfortable lead in a weak division, and he would have been back for the playoffs.
As I wrote in July, had they kept Casey, they could still chase Teixeira as a free agent and, if he signed, then trade Kotchman if so inclined. Now the Angels have no options. It’s Teixeira or Bust. If they don’t sign Mark, then they’ll have to go with Morales, or trade their young prospects to fill the hole.
Maybe Teixeira will re-sign with the Angels and all will be well. But they still won’t have the option of trading Kotchman, which would have brought them more talent, maybe the fifth starter they need.
And that’s what “instant gratification” cost them.
UPDATE December 21, 2008 6:30 PM PST — MLB.com reports that the Angels have announced this afternoon they’re pulling out of the Teixeira sweepstakes. Given that the Red Sox made the same announcement two days ago, it sounds like the suitors are drawing the line with Boras’ antics. As I wrote above, I predicted we’d wind up at this point back in July when the trade was made. That said, I’m glad the teams are taking a hard-line stance with Boras, especially in this economy.
UPDATE December 21, 2008 7:00 PM PST — Baltimore Sun sportswriter Peter S_chmuck reports that he called Angels media rep Tim Mead and was told that the withdrawal is “final.”
UPDATE December 22, 2008 6:30 AM PST — In a column titled, “How Do Fans Like Teixeira Trade Now?” Orange County Register sports columnist Mark Whicker echoes my sentiment. “The Angels are at this place today, with a giant chalk circle guarding the first-base line, because they did what you wanted.”
UPDATE December 22, 2008 9:30 PM PST — Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels will hold a press conference tomorrow and tell all about the failed Teixeira negotiations … MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals have increased their offer and might even go so far as to give Teixeira everything Boras demanded.
UPDATE December 23, 2008 8:30 AM PST — Normally I don’t care for Los Angeles Times sportswriter T.J. Simers’ snide gimmick — and it is a gimmick — but today’s column drops the gimmick in favor of some true sports journalism. Well worth the read. In summary, he suggests that Angels owner Arte Moreno let his ego get in the way. He made one offer and was miffed that Boras didn’t accept, so now he’s spinning to cover his backside with the fans, according to Simers.