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With eye on winning now, Braves deal away future talent

The Atlanta Braves not only think they can make it back to the postseason, but go all the way to the World Series in the mediocre National League.

That's why general manager John Schuerholz said to heck with the future and acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira and bullpen help before the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday. The additions came at a steep price in young players, but the moves certainly invigorated the team.

Said Braves catcher Brian McCann: "We've got the team to win the World Series."

"No one can match our lineup," said right fielder Jeff Francoeur, the Braves' other Gwinnett County product. "We can out-slug teams."

The Braves will likely have to, with the pitching - especially the starting rotation - still far from overpowering.

Schuerholz tried to upgrade the rotation, but there was little of consequence available after Mark Buehrle signed a long-term contract extension with the Chicago White Sox.

So Schuerholz went about upgrading the rest of the team. The big addition, of course, is Teixeira.

"No team did better than we did," Francoeur said of the Braves' haul before the deadline. "It gave everyone in the clubhouse a big lift. I mean, Teixeira is one of the best hitters in baseball."

The former Georgia Tech slugger will be a free agent after next season, however, and was only available because agent Scott Boras had turned down an eight-year, $140 million offer from the Texas Rangers.

Longterm, the success of the deal may be judged on whether the Braves can re-sign Teixeira. He's excited about being in Atlanta now, though.

"I hope the fans are ready for a great pennant race," Teixeira said after homering in his first game with the Braves. "I know that I am."

The switch hitter, who also hit a two-run homer in his second game with the Braves on Thursday, didn't experience much winning in Texas. He wants to do a lot of it in Atlanta.

The Braves saw their 14-season streak of division championships end last season, and Schuerholz is obviously determined to get the team back on top before he retires.

"Sure it's risky," Schuerholz said of trading catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four top prospects in the Teixeira deal. "But if we have a chance to win, we have an obligation and responsibility to try and do it."

Added the general manager: "I'll think about next year next year."

First base was the Braves' weakest position this season, posting a .211 average, .270 on-base percentage and .363 slugging average. Instead of an eighth place batter, the Braves now have a cleanup hitter manning the position.

Teixeira, like the Braves, wants to live for the moment.

"I don't want any contract talk or any long-term talk getting in the way of anything that we're doing here," the 27-year-old said. "I saw it in Texas - how contract talk gets in the way of things. People start talking and then the focus is off the field. I want the focus on trying to win the division and trying to win the World Series."

The next week is a big one for the Braves as they try to make up ground in the National League East. A three-game series against the Mets begins Tuesday in New York, followed by a weekend series at Philadelphia.

The Mets and Phillies also made moves before the non-waiver trade deadline, but not to the magnitude of the Braves. In fact, no one did.

The National League doesn't have a dominant team at the moment. With their additions, the Braves hope to fill the void.

"We want to get back on top," third baseman Chipper Jones said.

SideBar: GRADING THE NL EAST

All three contenders in the National League East made deals before Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, but with varied impacts. Baseball writer Guy Curtright grades the teams.

Atlanta Braves

Grade: A

He came at a heavy price in young talent, but Mark Teixeira is one of baseball's top talents and gives the Braves back-to-back switch hitters in the middle of the lineup. Octavio Dotel and lefty Ron Mahay upgrade the bullpen. The only thing the Braves didn't get was a needed starter.

New York Mets

Grade: B

GM Omar Minaya didn't address the team's pitching needs, but he did get slick-fielding Luis Castillo to plug the hole at second base. The Mets hope that Pedro Martinez will be able to join the rotation by the end of the month. He pitched a simulated game in Florida on Thursday.

Philadelphia Phillies

Grade: C

The Phillies acquired Tadahito Iguchi to fill in at second base and he can move to third when Chase Utley returns. But GM Pat Gillick couldn't upgrade the suspect pitching staff. Kyle Lohse lasted just one shaky inning in his first start, taking a liner off his forearm.