If the Los Angeles Angels weren't the favourites to win the American League pennant, they are now.
The Angels, who boast the best record in the major leagues, acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Casey Kotchman and prospect Steve Marek on Tuesday.
The Angels (65-40) enjoy an 11½ game lead in the AL West Division heading into Tuesday's showdown with the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
"Hopefully, I can just go over there and be one more piece of the puzzle," Teixeira said. "They have the best team in baseball."
"The team is playing well," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "But being able to add a player like Mark Teixeira just makes us that much better."
The Braves made the trade because Teixeira is in the final year of a two-year, $15.4-million US contract and, beset by injuries, they trail the New York Mets by 7½ games in the National League East.
"We offered him a very aggressive, multi-year contract," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "When he did not take that, we knew we would not be able to re-sign him."
"This is, obviously, not the way we wanted the season to end and go forward," Wren continued. "We look at it as building for the future.
"We have too many players hurt right now to really compete. It is time to start rebuilding our club."
Teixeira, one of the premier power hitters in the majors, is averaging .283 with 20 home runs, 78 runs batted in and 63 runs scored in 103 games this season.
The 28-year-old is a rarity among switch-hitting sluggers, with nearly as many walks (65) as strikeouts (70).
"I'm not going to go over there and make them any different other than just, hopefully, add a few more runs," Teixeira said. "They have all the pitching they need, they have great defence."
Teixeira is a lifetime .286 hitter with 190 HRs, 633 RBIs and 527 runs scored in 850 games over six MLB seasons with the Texas Rangers and Braves.
The former all-star has won two Gold Gloves for fielding excellence at first base.
"He is a tremendous player and we feel he will impact our club in a very positive way," Reagins said.
'A little bittersweet'
Teixeira and Ron Mahay were traded to Atlanta by Texas for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones on July 31, 2007.
"It is a little bittersweet," Teixeira said. "I really enjoyed my time here.
"I had a great year here. I love this team, I love this organization, I love this city.
"It is tough to leave. But at the same time, I have a great opportunity in Anaheim and I'm looking forward to it."
'I'm just excited'
Kotchman, 25, is hitting .274 with 31 HRs, 165 RBIs, 140 runs and 108 steals in 351 games since he broke into the majors with the Angels on May 9, 2004.
He is averaging .287 with 12 HRs, 54 RBIs, 47 runs and 23 stolen bases in 100 games this season.
"I'm just excited to go to Atlanta and play for [manager] Bobby Cox," Kotchman said. "At the same time, my teammates here — to leave them — I will be pulling for them."
Marek, a 24-year-old reliever, went 2-6 with a 3.66 earned-run average and three saves in 34 appearances for the double-A Arkansas Travelers.
The hard-throwing right-hander has struck out 57 batters and walked 21 in 46 2/3 innings pitched.