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Old 01-27-2007, 01:35 PM   #4
Hercules Rockefeller
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http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drm...310171,00.html

Helton trade to Boston up in the air
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By Tracy Ringolsby, Rocky Mountain News
January 27, 2007
Todd Helton's future with the Rockies is in limbo.
The Rockies and Boston Red Sox have been discussing trade possibilities involving Helton since November, as reported originally by the Rocky, but have struggled to look for a fit since the Red Sox withdrew outfielder Manny Ramirez from the discussions.

The talks have gone from simmering during the holiday period to heating up in advance of spring training, according to sources close to the situation.

The Rockies are willing to absorb slightly more than half of the $91.1 million that Helton is guaranteed over the final five years of his contract, but in return want to add players they feel will have potential impact.

The key is Helton has complete no-trade authority, and has indicated his preference is to finish his career with the Rockies, which signed him as a first-round draft pick in 1995. The Rockies earlier were talking with the Angels about a trade, but the Angels withdrew from those discussions after learning that Helton would refuse the deal.

Helton has long been described as the cornerstone for the Rockies long-range rebuilding program. He was actually criticized by agents for other players and officials for the Major League Baseball Players Association for underselling himself when he initially signed his nine-year, $141.5 million extension that went into effect in 2003.

Now, however, with Rockies ownership having slashed the Rockies payroll to the point that they have gone from the upper echelon in the league in terms of salary to the bottom five teams, ownership is concerned that his salary is too large a portion of the total payroll.

Boston is one of the few teams Helton would consider, according to sources close to the situation. His preferences would be Atlanta, but the Braves are in a major budget-cutting mode in light of a pending sale of the franchise, and St. Louis, but the Cardinals are set at first base with Albert Pujols.

Boston, in an effort to get rid of contracts it doesn't want, has proposed including third baseman Mike Lowell and right-handed reliever Julian Tavarez in the deal to offset some of Helton's contract. Lowell will earn $9 million in 2007, the final year of his contract. Tavarez is guaranteed $3.1 million in 2007 with a $3.85 million option for 2008 that is guaranteed if he makes 65 appearances in 2007.

The Rockies had a strong interest in Ramirez, anxious to add his bat to the middle of the lineup, and moving Ramirez was an original off-season priority for the Red Sox, who in the midst of the annual winter meetings last month suddenly did an about face.

Lowell and Tavarez could have short-term interest to the Rockies, but only if the Red Sox included top-line pitching prospects in the deal, as well.

The Rockies could play Lowell at third base, moving Garrett Atkins back to first base, his original position in pro ball, with the anticipation that within the next year highly-touted Ian Stewart would be ready to come to the big leagues. That would keep them from having to try and move Stewart to the outfield this spring. Also, Joe Koshansky, who has led the organization in home runs the last two years, is expected to play first base at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, and could enter the picture if Helton were dealt.

Tavarez would provide a veteran arm for middle relief. He was 11-5 with a 4.42 ERA for the Rockies in 2000 when he bounced between the bullpen and rotation.
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