And All Things Considered, That Could Be A Good Thing For The Red Sox.
The much ballyhooed trade proposal between the Red Sox and Rockies now appears to be off. And that's because the Red Sox were driving such a hard bargain. Just imagine, Mike Lowell, Julian Tavarez, and a b-level prospect for one of the game's best hitters -- and the Rockies would have paid up to half of Helton's salary. Oh, and they'd have to take on the recovering, and overpaid, Matt Clement too. Wow. That's the kind of deal that gets proposed by some dreamy eyed fan on a Red Sox message board, only to be savaged by other rabid fans as being ridiculous, absurd, and implausible.
Considering their offer, it's amazing the Sox didn't ask Colorado to pay all of Helton's hefty contract -- $91.1 million over the next five years. Why not go for broke? Maybe get Colorado to throw in house in the Boston area for Helton too?
The most unseemly part of the whole affair was that Lowell and Tavarez had to read their names in the paper and find out out about the potential trade the way the rest of the public did. For his part, Lowell claims to have no bitterness, saying, "I understand that this ultimately is still a business and trades and talks are part of it." Once again, Lowell proved what a classy guy he is. In fact, Lowell said he'd like to play the rest of his career in Boston. Tavarez, on the other hand attacked another phone and a Gatorade cooler. No charges have been filed and the phone and cooler are said to be recovering.
Trades like this almost never happen because they're unrealistic in the first place. And the only conceivable reason the Rockies would have even engaged in such a dialogue is if they view the 33-year-old Helton as a damaged player who is past his prime. Sure he accounts for a lot of payroll, but he's their best player (ever) and the face of the franchise. Perhaps their medical staff examined his records closely and were left with deep concerns. Was Manny Delcarmen really holding up this deal?
When healthy, Helton is a world class hitter, who in 10 big league seasons (9 full) has cranked out 1700 hits, 286 homers and 996 RBI, scored 1018 runs, and posted an amazing .333 career average, .430 OBP, and a .593 slugging percentage. If the guy stays healthy and fulfills the rest of his contract, he'll end up in Cooperstown when all is said and done.
For comparison's sake, in nine big league seasons (eight of them full) Lowell - who turns 33 later this month - has 1132 hits, 163 homers, 658 RBI, 557 runs, a career .273 average, .339 OBP and .463 slugging percentage. Aside from the fact that they're both corner infielders, there is no comparison. Helton's numbers are off the charts compared to Lowell's -- compared to most of his contemporaries.
And as for Tavarez, well phones and coolers fear him a lot more than opposing hitters do. Need I say more. The Sox would be happy to send him and his $3.1 million 2007 salary out to Colorado, or anyplace else beyond the state line.
Incredibly, some baseball officials think this deal isn't dead yet. They believe the Rockies and Red Sox could rekindle talks in spring training. And that prospect is a nightmare for opposing A.L GM's -- especially those in the East. The last thing they want to see is a more potent Sox lineup to go along with a revamped rotation. Almost everyone agrees that a healthy Todd Helton at Fenway would be explosive. And apparently he thinks so too. Helton has a full no-trade clause and is willing to waive it to come play in Boston. He wants to win now, and he knows how much better his chances would be in Boston with its vaunted lineup.
But until he goes out and proves that the downturn he's faced over the last two years was just a bump in the road, questions about his health will linger. And perhaps rightly so. Calf strains, and even intestinal ailments that cause weight and strength loss, can be overcome. But for a great hitter, a bad back is career threatening. That's a scary prospect, and a bit of a gamble. But with the Rockies picking up half the tab, and considering what the Sox would have to give up in return, it's one worth taking should the opportunity arise again.
Copyright © 2007 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.