Helton shifts focus to Rockies, winning

Updated: January 31, 2007, 10:24 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER --Todd Helton has put the trade talk behind him and is focused on the upcoming season, when he hopes to help the Colorado Rockies end their six-year stretch of losing records.

Olney: Think Again
 Mark Kreidler
If, as reported, the Red Sox-Rockies Helton deal fell apart because of Boston's refusal to include Manny Delcarmen, there may still 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." Blog Insider

The Rockies broke off talks with Boston this week after the Red Sox balked at including any highly regarded prospects in a potential deal for Helton, whose .333 career batting average is tops among active players.

The breakdown in talks was met with relief in Colorado, where Helton is the face of the franchise despite two consecutive seasons marred by injuries and illness.

Helton said his focus now is on helping the Rockies win again. They've had just one winning season -- 82-80 in 2000 -- during his decade in Denver and have never been a serious playoff contender.

"It's something we need to change, and right now that's my focus," Helton was quoted as saying in The Rocky Mountain News on Wednesday. "I'm not thinking about [the potential trade] That's not something I had control of. That's no distraction. The only thing on my mind is playing first base and winning."

Helton has $90.1 million remaining on his contract, which runs through 2011 and calls for him to make $16.6 million this season, about 30 percent of the team's projected payroll of $55 million.

The Rockies were willing to pay part of his salary in return for the right mix of players. But the Rockies said the Red Sox refused to budge from their offer of third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Julian Tavarez, two players whose contracts are set to expire after next season.

Colorado was interested in two of Boston's young relievers: Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen.

"I really didn't pay any attention to it," Hansen said Wednesday night at a banquet for St. John's, his college team. "One of my things is I don't read the paper, I didn't watch the news. I didn't really know what was going on. My older brother sent me a link. I clicked on it. It was a house for sale in Colorado. He was just joking around with me, so that's how I ended up finding out.

"I'm happy to be here. I gave them a chance to get out of it if they wanted, and it didn't happen. So it's time to go about business."
-- Todd Helton

"I'm not too worried about it. I know that most of the trades that are offered to the Red Sox I'm included, and I take it with some pride that a lot of teams want me out there. I know the Red Sox don't want to give me up."

Helton has a complete no-trade clause in the $141.5 million, nine-year contract extension he signed in 2001, but he was willing to waive it for a chance to play for the Red Sox.

Helton has said he'd prefer to play his entire career in Colorado, where he has a ranch and lives year-round.

"I'm happy to be here," he said. "I gave them a chance to get out of it if they wanted, and it didn't happen. So it's time to go about business."

Helton is coming off the two least productive years of his career. In 2005, he played with a bad back and landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a strained calf. Last year, he was slowed by an intestinal infection that landed him in the hospital and sapped his weight, strength and stamina all season.

Helton said he's in top shape thanks to a revised offseason conditioning program and is eager to reaffirm his status as one of the game's elite hitters -- while in a Rockies uniform.

"I plan to die here," he said. "I like it here that much."

Helton said he thinks he can reach the postseason with the Rockies, who have developed several young hitters who are starting to establish themselves in the big leagues.

"I know my baseball life is going to close most likely within the next eight years," Helton said. "And the thing I want to experience more than anything is to win, and I'd prefer to experience that with the Rockies. I will do everything I can to bring the championship here."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press