Normally you could chalk up the “Todd Helton to the Red Sox” rumor as nothing more than a pipe-dream generated by the overzealous Red Sox propaganda machine and its kool-aid drinking lackies in the local press. But not this time. In a story broken by the Denver Post, the Rockies have acknowledged that they are considering a deal with the Sox involving 3B Mike Lowell, reliever Julian Taveraz and relief prospects Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen.
While it’s true that the Rockies haven’t gotten 16 million dollars worth of production over the last two years, Helton still posted a .930 OPS and averaged 80 RBIs on a losing team. Dealing him for spare parts and a relief prospect is downright ludicrous, not to mention paying half of the $91 million remaining on his 6-year deal. With a team stacked full of up and coming 20-something position players, the Rockies have a legitimate chance of competing in the mediocre N.L. West, if not this season, then definitely soon after. Garret Atkins and Matt Holiday may not be household names yet outside of Colorado but last season, both emerged as legitimate middle-of-the-order mashers. As always, there are more questions than answers in the Rockies starting rotation, but this deal wouldn’t even bring a starting pitching prospect.
I’m not sure who is crazier, Colorado owner Charlie Monfort, who is willing to pay somebody $45 million to take Helton off his hands in exchange for a couple relief prospects and some spare parts or the Red Sox for their reluctance to pull the trigger. This isn’t to criticize the players involved from Boston. Lowell has a nice glove at 3B and some pop in his bat; Delcarmen and Hansen are both good prospects with excellent stuff and Taveraz can be a useful option out of the pen in spite of his occasional emotional outbursts. But these guys do not comprise anywhere near equal value for the face of your franchise who has never hit below .300 in a full season and averaged about 30 homers and 100 RBI’s over his career in Denver. Are some of those numbers inflated by the thin air at Coors Field? Definitely, but even so, Helton is going to get on base about 40% of the time and at worst be among the league leaders in doubles no matter where he calls home. I’m sure a February surrender isn’t exactly going to help bring back a restless Rockies fan base who expected to have a shot at competing in 2007.
If you’re the Red Sox, how can you pass up this trade? The Sox can easily accommodate Helton by shifting Kevin Youkillis back to his original 3B position and plugging Helton in at 1st. Taveraz’s production can likely be replicated with an in-house option or at a reasonable cost on the open market and it’s not like the Sox have shown any hesitation in spending money to improve this winter. Sure, giving up a reliever of Delcarmen or Hansen’s potential in an already leaky pen isn’t easy. But neither one is likely to emerge as a shutdown closer this season and Boston has done an excellent job of grooming a stable of quality young arms to fill out the pen in future seasons.
Imagine adding Helton’s production and patience to a lineup already among the league’s best. With a chance to compete for a World Series and the motivation to prove his Coors Field critics wrong, Helton could make a big impact in Boston. How can Theo Epstein and Co. pass up the opportunity to rip off another small-market team without the financial wherewithal to absorb a rich long-term contract? Maybe the Sox are holding out hope that Colorado will settle for just one of their blue-chip relief prospects and who can blame them for being a little greedy. With the Rockies waving the white flag in February, the Sox will come out of this deal smelling another October run.