SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Braves were preparing to play the Giants at AT&T Park on Tuesday night, the buzz at other Major League parks across the country was that they had emerged as the favorites to land Mark Teixeira in a trade with the Rangers. While the Braves would certainly benefit from the offensive and defensive skills Teixeira would bring as their first baseman, they still have a definite need and desire to improve their pitching staff before next Tuesday's trade deadline. But one Major League scout confirmed the Braves and Rangers are still discussing a trade that would be headlined with Teixeira and almost definitely include Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Atlanta's 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher who stands as one of the most attractive prospects on the trade market.
Another National League scout said the Braves might be discussing also including a young pitching prospect (possibly Jo-Jo Reyes) and Elvis Andrus, the 18-year-old phenom shortstop who is currently experiencing the struggles of the maturation process with Class A Myrtle Beach. While Andrus has been promoted as one of the game's next great shortstops, the scout said, "[Braves general manager] John Schuerholz will deal a kid like that if the deal is right." On what is a very thin trade market, Teixeira seemingly stands as the most attractive draw. The 27-year-old first baseman, who is hitting .301 with a .406 on-base percentage and a .541 slugging percentage, is in the final year of his contract and would be eligible for arbitration in the offseason. He would likely command a salary of at least $11.5 million next year. With the likelihood that Andruw Jones is playing his final season in Atlanta, Teixeira, who is seeking his fourth consecutive 30-homer season, would be supply some of the lost power and come much cheaper than Jones. Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, almost definitely wants his client on the free-agent market after the 2008 season. But the Braves may still be willing to take the gamble in hopes that he'd at least provide an immediate benefit and also prove to be a productive force next year. Nobody better than Chipper: Among those players who have had at least 550 plate appearances since June 24 of last year, Chipper Jones has led the Majors with both a .360 batting average and .672 slugging percentage. His .443 on-base percentage during that span has been bettered only by Barry Bonds' .475. These numbers prove Braves manger Bobby Cox hasn't just been blowing smoke over the past couple of weeks, when he's said "Chipper is playing as well as I've ever seen him." "For the better part of the last couple of months, I feel like I've been fortunate because I haven't felt that great at the plate," Jones said. "But I'm getting my hits, keeping my average up and being a tough out." Entering Tuesday, Jones was hitting an NL-best .342 and he ranked second to Bonds with a 1.026 (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). The only thing seemingly keeping him out of MVP debates is his 17 homer total -- a product of hand injuries that sidelined him for nearly three weeks and continued to affect him after he came off the disabled list. Since coming off the disabled list on June 13, Jones has hit .394 with a .484 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage. Although he's hit just five homers in that span, he's still hit a homer every 18.25 at-bats this season. "I've been able to stay within myself and recognize how teams are trying to get me out," Jones said. "I'm not trying to jack everything, and I'm getting my base hits." Tribute to Biggio: When Astros veteran Craig Biggio announced on Tuesday that he'll retire at the end of this season, there was reason for John Smoltz to reminisce. Since they made their Major League debuts in 1988, the two have enjoyed numerous battles during both the regular season and postseason. "I liked everything about the way he played," said Smoltz, who next year will become the longest tenured Major Leaguer who has spent his entire big-league career with one organization. During his first three Division Series matchups against the Braves, Biggio had five hits in 43 at-bats. In the next two Division Series, during which the Astros beat the Braves, he had 14 hits in 39 at-bats. Jones has an easy explanation for why Biggio, his former Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell and Bonds (while he was with the Pirates) got labeled early in the career as players who didn't show up for the postseason. "You're not going to do much against [Greg] Maddux, [Tom] Glavine and Smoltz," Jones said. "When we had lesser talent on the hill, they did pretty good." Coming up: The Braves will continue their four-game series against the Giants at 10:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday at AT&T Park. Atlanta sends Chuck James (8-7, 3.58 ERA) to the mound to face Noah Lowry (10-7, 3.55).