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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Should Rox rethink Helton deal?


Before the deal-killing conference call with the Red Sox yesterday afternoon, before the Rockies broke off talks with Boston, Colorado owner Charlie Monfort spoke with The Associated Press.

"I've been in this business for 15 years and 1 percent of these deals get done. We want to do right by Todd," Monfort said. "We're planning on winning the division and we'd rather do it with Todd. … We're not just looking to save money."

Hmmm. It stands to reason that the Rockies talked about dealing Helton this offseason, over and over, only because they wanted to dump his salary, and give the team better payroll flexibility going forward. They want to get to where Minnesota and Oakland are, developing young players, keeping the pipeline flush so that when young and talented players become expensive stars, there are alternatives.

Troy Renck writes that the Red Sox were willing to absorb $53.5 million of the $90.1 million still owed to Helton, and that the deal fell apart over the inclusion of one prospect -- and not Boston's best prospect. So, in theory, if the Red Sox had agreed to part with Manny Delcarmen, apparently this thing might have gotten done.

If that's the case, there still might be a chance that this thing is revitalized in the weeks ahead. It could be that these talks are dead in the way that Michael Myers was dead in "Halloween."

Time and again, we've seen negotiations similar to this break apart, one or both sides insisting that the conversations are finished, that there is no more talking to be done. And then one side picks up the phone days later, with spring training looming, and everything is quickly resolved.

This is what happened with the Chuck Knoblauch talks in 1998, with the Roger Clemens trade talks in 1999, with the Ken Griffey Jr. trade talks before the 2000 season; the list could go on and on.

And as the Rockies step back from the table today, they will ask themselves these questions:

  1. Going forward, would our franchise be better off free of the tens of millions owed to Helton, or would it be better off with Helton -- the face of our franchise, a Hall of Fame candidate -- in the lineup?

  2. Will we, again, get as good an opportunity as we had with Boston to move Helton's salary, knowing that he has the ability to kill any deal with his veto power?

  3. We know that one way or the other, we will take a public relations hit if we trade Helton -- especially if we make this deal without the inclusion of Delcarmen or some other top prospect. Are we good enough to overcome this in the long run, and have a better chance to win, with the money saved from Helton's contract?

    And this is a big one:

  4. Internally, what do we really think Helton is going to do in the next five years? What do we think of how his body will hold up? Because if we think he is going to break down, we have to take this deal right now, no matter how much we don't like it. And if we feel that he's going to hold up and be a productive player, then great, let's keep him and go forward and maybe wait for a better deal down the road.
You understand why Monfort praises Helton so glowingly. He's been The Man in Colorado, the guy around whom the team has been built. But Colorado was concerned enough about Helton to pursue trade talks, in earnest, with the Angels and Red Sox. It does seem like the Rockies are concerned about the public backlash over what would appear to be a one-sided Helton trade. If that's the case, history tells us they should get over it and pick up the phone and make the deal.

The Mariners weren't thrilled about the Griffey trade, but made it because they thought it was the best thing to do in the big picture; Seattle improved its victory total by 12 games and made the playoffs in 2000 before winning 116 games in 2001. Just before the July 31 trade deadline last summer, the Phillies decided that changing their clubhouse chemistry and shedding payroll was more important than having a publicly palatable Bobby Abreu trade -- and they seem to be in a better position now for having done that.

It wouldn't be surprising if this thing is rekindled. There's too much at stake for the Rockies, in particular.

The Red Sox would love to have Helton, but given what they are being asked to absorb financially, they will not overpay for him in prospects.

Helton would fit the Red Sox perfectly in so many ways, in the same way that Abreu fit the Yankees last season. There was no pressure on Abreu to hit for power, because the Yankees had that already; Abreu helped the Yankees with his remarkable plate discipline, his quality plate appearances.

Alex Stern of the Elias Sports Bureau looked into the numbers generated by the Yankees before and after they made the Abreu trade:

2006 YANKEES: BEFORE/AFTER BOBBY ABREU TRADE
  BEFORE (102 GAMES) AFTER (60 GAMES)
On-base percentage .359 .369
Walks per game 3.96 4.08
Pitches per plate appearance 3.78 3.88
Runs per game 5.59 6.0
Avg. length of start by opp. pitcher (IP) 5.58 5.23
Avg. time of game 3:03 3:10

(The average time required for any Yankees game, by the way, was 3:06, the highest in the majors, and Boston was the only other team to have average game times of more than 3 hours, at 3:04).

In the same way, the Red Sox would not need Helton to hit home runs. He could just punch the ball the other way and knock singles and doubles off the Green Monster, draw his share of walks and play his usual stellar first base.

Helton was at Coors Field on Monday, writes Tracy Ringolsby.

Red Sox owner John Henry said he never thought this deal would take place, and Boston's executives like the team they've assembled, Jeff Horrigan writes. Theo Epstein laid down some ground rules before the conversations began.

*****

Barry Bonds got his deal done, apparently joking that the holdup was because he was on a skiing vacation, Chris Haft writes. Bonds will pay his trainers, rather than the team, John Shea writes.

The Giants signed Bonds under cloak of darkness, writes Ann Killion. Bonds should work to improve his image, writes Gwen Knapp.

Here's the statement of owner Peter Magowan, which has all the emotion of a summary review of gall bladder surgery.

Only a major injury is going to keep Bonds from breaking Hank Aaron's record, writes Phil Rogers, and that will put commissioner Bud Selig in a strange position when it comes down to the question of how to celebrate the event.

• Now two starters from the Marlins' vaunted young rotation are having arm issues, Clark Spencer writes. And within this story, we learn that Florida players are now allowed to grow facial hair, and that the Marlins were one of the teams that went to see the workout of free agent Shannon Stewart.

Alex Sanchez hopes to be the Marlins' center fielder, Juan Rodriguez writes.

Nolan Ryan brushed aside concerns about his recent heart trouble, and meanwhile, Clemens threw batting practice to some Houston hitters.

Curt Schilling says he isn't retiring after this year, and wants to work out an extension with the Red Sox. This is not the last we will hear of all of this.

Art Fowler passed away.

Ryan Zimmerman says the Washington lineup will be just as effective as it was last year, Barry Svrluga writes.

• Don't worry, Ryan Howard will get paid, writes Bill Conlin.

Preston Wilson got paid by the Cardinals, taking a deal that guarantees him $1 million.

Nate Robertson is the one Tiger who stayed near Detroit in the offseason, and he's working out like crazy, John Paul Morosi writes. All but one Detroit game will be on TV this year.

• The Mariners completed their deal with Jeff Weaver.

• The Royals want to use public funds to augment their video equipment, and county officials are not pleased, Deann Smith writes.

Brad Wilkerson is working to give himself the best possible chance for success this season. Evan Grant reports a few developments here from the Rangers' minicamp, including the fact that Joaquin Arias worked out in the outfield. The Rangers will formally announce the Sammy Sosa deal today.

Jack Wilson said his comments about second baseman Jose Castillo were meant as a challenge, writes Dejan Kovacevic. Pittsburgh season-ticket sales are up slightly, writes Rob Biertempfel.

Andy Pettitte visited Bobby Murcer at the hospital this week.

• The Brewers reached an agreement with Claudio Vargas, and now have two arbitration cases still up in the air, Tom Haudricourt writes.

• The Orioles claimed a right-handed reliever off waivers.

• The Mets are selling a ton of tickets, Ben Shpigel writes. Tom Glavine says it's 50-50 that he's going to retire after this year, Ken Davidoff writes.

• Former big league catcher Chad Kreuter has landed as the head coach at USC, and is attracting talent, Heather Gripp writes.

We're No. 24. Just in time to play in Florida on Wednesday.