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Old 01-29-2007, 05:55 PM   #13
Clockwork Orange
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DENVER -- Colorado Rockies owner Charlie Monfort insists the team isn't looking to dump salary in its talks to trade Todd Helton to the Boston Red Sox.

Monfort said the Red Sox would have to part with pitching prospects in addition to third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Julian Tavarez, players they've already offered in exchange for the 33-year-old slugger.

"This is Todd Helton we're talking about," Monfort told The Associated Press on Monday. "We're not just going to give him up for nothing."

The Rockies would like to obtain promising relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen from Boston.

"Tavarez and Lowell are good, and they'll help us this season, but we need to get something else pretty good in return," Monfort said. "So, we'll see."

Colorado would pay a good chunk of the $90.1 million left on Helton's contract, Monfort said, a deal that includes salaries of $16.6 million in each of the next four seasons, $19.1 million in 2011 and a $4.6 million buyout of a $23 million team option for 2012. The amount the Rockies would pay isn't a sticking point in talks, Monfort said. Rather, it's the players Colorado covets in return for the Rockies' most recognizable player.

Helton has a no-trade clause but is willing to waive it to play in Boston.

Negotiations with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein were expected to resume later Monday when general manager Dan O'Dowd returned to Denver after attending to a family matter over the weekend.

"I don't see it dragging on. If Dan and Theo can work out the bodies in the next couple of days, it will happen," said Monfort, who would need to sign off on the trade.

Monfort said he expected the deal to get done early in the week or not at all.

"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."

Although the savings would allow the Rockies to address other areas, Monfort said he's not solely seeking financial flexibility in dangling Helton.

"We're not just looking to save money," he said. "I'd consider it a salary dump if we didn't have anybody there who could play first base, and we do. I'm not saying they're Todd Helton by any means. And they'd have some huge shoes to fill. But we have some guys there, a little bit of a logjam."

If Lowell comes over from Boston, third baseman Garrett Atkins could move to first, although an intriguing possibility is accelerating the arrival of 25-year-old Joe Koshansky, who hit .284 with 31 homers and 109 RBIs at Double-A Tulsa last season.

Monfort said he realizes fans don't want to see Helton and the Rockies part ways, and he doesn't relish that prospect, either.

"It would be so tough to see Todd go. We drafted him. He's a great guy, he has a ranch 15 minutes from my house," Monfort said. "This one is tough. We had Vinny Castilla and Andres Galarraga, but they weren't with us as long as Todd. And Todd's a friend of mine.

"We're not doing cartwheels over here at Coors Field over this, believe me."

Lowell will earn $9 million next season, the final year of his contract. Tavarez is guaranteed $3.1 million next season with a $3.85 million option for 2008 that is guaranteed if he makes 65 appearances.

After averaging 35 homers and 117 RBIs over the previous seven seasons, Helton's numbers dipped in 2005, when he hit .320 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs while he was playing with a bad back. He also made his first career trip to the disabled list with a strained calf.

An intestinal infection sent him to the DL again last May and he never regained his strength, weight or power stroke upon his return, finishing with just 15 homers, a .302 batting average and 81 RBIs.

Helton said recently he had finally gotten back to 210 pounds and that his strength and stamina had returned. The Red Sox were encouraged by his clean bill of health.

While Monfort said tying up 30 percent of the team's projected $55 million payroll this season isn't a good business model, he wouldn't mind seeing a healthy Helton batting cleanup for Colorado in 2007, either.

"We'd love to have Todd here and get to a World Series with Todd in a Rockies uniform and we believe we can get there," Monfort said. "It's not like a couple of years ago when we were just plugging holes. We feel we can win this division and that makes this a little more difficult.

"It seems like the days of someone playing their entire career for one team has gone by the wayside. I saw him retiring as a Rockie. It would be a great story. Some deals get made and some don't. No one is going to be with one team their whole career and not be mentioned in a trade once or twice."
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