In their continuing search for an outfielder, the Atlanta Braves are in discussions with the Texas Rangers about what could be a blockbuster trade, sources say .
Talks between Atlanta General Manager John Schuerholz and Texas GM John Hart have included the following names being thrown around: Mark Teixeira and Kevin Mench on the Texas side and Rafael Furcal, John Thomson, and Horacio Ramirez on the Braves side.
The Braves would like to do a deal that would send Furcal and Thomson to Texas for Teixeira and a prospect. The Rangers, who did express interest in Thomson returning to Texas during the summer, would prefer Horacio Ramirez. Schuerholz isn't likely to include him in the deal, however. The two teams discussed Mench at the winter meetings last month, and his name is still a possibility if the Rangers don't give up Teixeira.
Texas is talking with the Astros about a deal that would send second baseman Alfonso Soriano to Houston for Brandon Backe and additional players. The Rangers would then need a middle infielder. They could either move Furcal to second base, his natural position, or move last year's shortstop Michael Young back to second base, where he started 159 games in 2003.
Atlanta would move Teixeira to right field, where he did play in seven games with the Rangers last season (four starts). He played 142 games (138 starts) at first base in 2004. Teixeira played in 29 games in the outfield in 2003. He came up as a third baseman, but the Rangers moved him to first since they already had Hank Blalock at third. Teixeira hit .281 with 38 home runs and 112 RBI last season. The switch-hitter turns 25 years old on April 11.
Mench hit .279 with 26 home runs and 71 RBI last season in 438 at bats. It was his breakout season, as his previous high was 15 home runs and 60 RBI in 366 at bats in 2002. The right-handed hitting Mench just turned 27 last week.
The centerpiece of the deal for Texas is Furcal, who is eligible for free agency after the 2005 season. Furcal batted .279 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI, and 29 stolen bases in 2004. The Braves have discussed a contract extension with his agent, but the deal, reportedly worth $25 million over three years, is not close. Therefore, the option of trading Furcal is attractive to Atlanta, particularly if they can get a significant player for their outfield.
Thomson signed with the Braves in thirteen months ago after spending the 2003 season with the Rangers. He was 13-14 for a Texas club that won only 71 games. Thomson went 14-8 last season for the Braves with a 3.72 ERA in 33 games started.
The Rangers are trying to sign Carlos Delgado to play first base. That would give them the flexibility of dealing Teixeira. Thomson would join Kenny Rogers, Ryan Drese, Chan Ho Park, R.A. Dickey, and Chris Young in the Rangers rotation.
If Furcal were traded, the Braves would probably allow the shortstop position to be a spring training battle between Wilson Betemit and Tony Pena, Jr. Luis Hernandez, slated for AA Mississippi, is probably not ready to make the jump. Atlanta could also try to bring in another veteran to battle the young kids for playing time.
Like all trade talks, these discussions are very fluid and could go either way. We'll keep you updated when we hear additional information.
Bill Shanks can be reached at email@example.com
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