With a 66-40 record, which happens to be the best in MLB, the LA Angels decided that their lineup needed a significant upgrade, so the team traded for the best hitter on the trading block: first baseman Mark Teixeira. In order to get Teixeira, who becomes a free agent after this season, the Angels traded away first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek to the Atlanta Braves.
Before the trade, the Angels had a good lineup but not a great one. When discussing the Angels' lineup, other than the power of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, most baseball analysts and announcers usually bring up that the Angels are a very fundamentally sound team. The Angels will hit-and-run, go from first to third on a single most of the time, and lay down bunts when needed. Chone Figgins steals plenty of bases, Howie Kendrick is a great contact hitter, and Reggie Willits can come off the bench to bunt, play defense, and do whatever is necessary at a certain time.
But all of that can only get a team so far, especially when the Angels have had Maicer Izturis (.264/.327/.352) batting third.
The Angels have really been a peculiar team this season. On the one hand, as stated above, they play fundamental baseball and win one-run games (20-13 on the season). The Angels have an outstanding starting rotation and a very solid bullpen; Francisco Rodriguez already has 44 saves. On the other hand, the Angels have been extremely lucky. They are 24 games over .500, but their run differential is just +43. To contrast, the Oakland A's, also in the AL West, have a run differential of +42. And they are just 53-53 on the season.
The Angels also happen to rank ninth in the AL in runs scored (480), 11th in on-base percentage (.322), and ninth in home runs (99).
So instead of just hoping the luck continues and deciding to put Izturis in the third slot for the rest of the season, the Angels took a chance and got Teixeira. Teixeira will slide right into first base to replace Kotchman, and he helps give the Angels a much more formidable lineup. Kotchman is a pretty good hitter, but Teixeira is much better in almost every category:
Kotchman -- .287 BA, .774 OPS, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 47 Runs
Teixeira -- .283 BA, .902 OPS, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 63 Runs
A lineup 1-7 of Figgins, Kendrick, Teixeira, Guerrero, Hunter, Anderson, and Izturis sure looks a lot better than this one: Figgins, Kotchman, Izturis, Guerrero, Hunter, Anderson, Kendrick.
Of course, the 28-year-old Teixeira is a free agent after this season and will want a long-term deal worth more than $20 million per season. Depending on how the rest of this season goes, the Angels may decide to sign him, or maybe they'll just let him walk. Either way, they definitely seem to be serious about making a run at the World Series, and they sure look like the best team in the AL right now.
If the Angels win the World Series this year, no one will care that they traded away Kotchman. (Except Kotchman.)