Mark Teixeira: Grade the Trade.

Somehow, the Rangers don't miss this guy's big bat.
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The Rangers have trotted out Ben Broussard, Chris Shelton and maybe soon even Hank Blalock to his old position. And in last month’s draft they picked the next him.

But dig a little deeper – just a level or two down in the minors – and the trading of first baseman Mark Teixeira looks like a home run for GM Jon Daniels.

The deal, made last July 31, was officially Teixeira and middle reliever Ron Mahay to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers. With Teixeira making his first return to Rangers Ballpark tonight, seems like as good a time as any for some hardball analysis.

Shall we?

Teixeira, the first overall pick in the ’01 draft, is having a so-so year, hitting .271 with 10 homers and 49 RBI. In fact, his numbers are so-so similar to Rangers’ rookie outfielder David Murphy, who has a higher average, same dingers and only two less RBI. For what it’s worth, Mahay signed with the Royals in the off-season.

No doubt the Rangers’ lineup screams for production from first base. Broussard was a bust, Shelton’s punchless and Blalock is switching positions just to give the position some pop. Despite the void, the Rangers lead baseball at almost six runs per game.

Break down the assets, and Texas’ grade can't be anything other than an A:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: A disappointment so far, for sure. He’s clearly inferior to Gerald Laird, hitting just .244 and throwing out only two of 22 base-stealers. (Laird has gunned down 12 of 26.) Still, the Rangers are convinced he’s their catcher of the future.

Elvis Andrus: Trust me, I’ve seen this 19-year-old play and he’s already the best fielding shortstop in franchise history. And he’s only at Class AA Frisco. Hitting just .266 with almost as many strikeouts as hits, but nonetheless a AA All-Star.

Neftali Feliz: After the dominating year he’s having in Class A, it’s not a stretch to call him the Rangers’ top pitching prospect. He’s 5-2 with 2.24 ERA and is striking out about nine per start.

Matt Harrison: Threw a no-hitter in Frisco earlier this season and was recently promoted to AAA Oklahoma, where he is 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA.

Beau Jones: Considered a throw-in to the deal, he’s 1-3 at Advanced Class A Bakersfield.

Bottom line, Daniels acquired tons of value – it’s not unrealistic to think Salty, Andrus, Feliz and Harrison will be in Arlington together by 2010 – for a guy everyone knew he had to trade. Teixeira grumbled publicly and screamed privately about manager Ron Washington, and his agent, Scott Boras, turned down a $140 million contract extension.

Tonight when the Rangers field a team against Atlanta that desperately needs a first baseman, the loss of Teixeira may seem painful. But next year and beyond the deal should be more than fruitful. -- Richie Whitt

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