Saturday, January 27, 2007

Todd Helton

First, since Ross has apparently forgotten his log-in, here's what he has to say about the Todd Helton to the Red Sox rumors:

Oh my god do I hope the Red Sox pull off this trade for Todd Helton. He's 33 years old (he'll be 39 at the end of his contract), makes $16 million a year for the next 6 seasons. His numbers are already declining with only a .781 OPS on the road last season and .882 over the past 3 seasons (which is very good, but not what you'd pay for a $16 million a year first baseman). And at his age, the decline in numbers is more probably a trend and not an abberration.

He only hit 15 home runs last year and would be going to a ballpark that is not condusive to lefties not named David Ortiz for hitting home runs.

He'd be going from pressureless baseball of his entire career to Boston, where if he gets off to a slow start they will be jumping all over the "inflated Colorado numbers" bandwagon. I'm not sure his numbers would be any better than Mike Lowell's were last year, and they'd be giving up prospects with him. The $ difference, the years. Wow, I hope the Red Sox do this.
Well, I agree that on its face it's a terrible deal. And I don't think that the Sox would do the version proposed/reported by Rosenthal (Hansen/Ellsbury/others). If they do, then they've learned nothing from last season.

However, if it's something along the lines of Helton for Clement/Lowell/prospect with Colorado picking up a significant portion of the money (as speculated in the original column and by Buster Olney), then it may not be that bad. Helton's contract breaks down like this:

2007: $16.6M
2008: $16.6M
2009: $16.6M
2010: $16.6M
2011: $19.1M
2012: $4.6M buyout

So if they dumped Clement and Lowell (and put Youkilis back at 3B), then it's a money wash this year (actually, the Red Sox would save money). After this year, obviously, it becomes an albatross, and it makes the lineup very lefty-heavy in the middle (Ortiz, Drew, Helton). Long-term, unless the contract is HEAVILY subsidized, it's a bad deal.

I tend to believe the version that the Boston Herald is reporting - that Colorado is driving the negotiations and pursuing Boston as a suitor for Helton. If they think they're getting a boatload of talent back for him, they're mistaken - if that's what they want, they should have tried to trade him a year or two ago. They have to expect to pay a lot of money and/or take back a lot of bad contracts, which, surprisingly, the Red Sox don't really have.

Here's what I would ask, if I were the Sox (and this assumes that they even want him in the first place, and that they think he's not totally done). I'd take Helton for Lowell/Clement/Tavarez, and a less than top prospect. I'd also tell Colorado that they didn't have to pay any money this year. They would, however, have to kick in $4.6 million each year from 2008 through 2010, then $7.1 in 2011, making the contract $12 mil a year after 2007. They'd also have to pay the buyout for 2012, making the total cash payout $25.5M, and making the Sox' commitment $16.6M this year and $12M per from '08-'11. That's not so bad in this market (if he could be an .825-.875 OPS-type for the next four years or so), especially since the Sox don't have too many corner prospects expected to be ready anytime soon. Plus, the savings for 2007 could go towards Clemens, even though that would make me suicidal.

However, I'm not convinced that Helton isn't totally cooked, so I'd be inclined to let the Rockies continue to choke on their mistake, and hope that another AL team like Anaheim makes a bad deal for him instead. Deep down, I think this is what the Red Sox will do, but they've surprised me before by overpaying, so nothing would shock me.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this all up, I saw the new version being reported on, which says the deal (Lowell/Tavarez/young relievers) is pretty close, and that the Rockies would pick up half of Helton's contract. That's interesting, but I hope they don't have to give up Delcarmen.


Warren said...

From the reporting, there is such a range in possible deals that it's hard to say whether or not this would end up being a good deal for the Red Sox. If the Red Sox really end up getting Helton for half-price and get to dump some of their own salaries, then it seems like a good deal to me. But that doesn't seem likely to happen, because it's hard for me to imagine why the Rockies would make such a deal.

Warren said...

One more thing - Helton has declined any way you look at it, but don't forget that Colorado has become less and less of a pitcher's park over time (the park factors the last three years were 120, 113 and 107).

The big question is health - is his decline related to back problems (something Yankee fans are very aware of after Mattingly), or sickness (whatever stomach thing he had).

Sully said...

Yeah, I worry about the health as well, but I'm sure the Red Sox know a lot more about his situation that any of us. If you look at his numbers from last year, he had a very good April, a down May when he was dealing with his intestinal thing, and then a huge June, indicating that he was probably recovered. But then his second half was pretty bad, which could have been the back, or just a sign that he's declining sharply.

The more I think about this deal, the less I like it, whatever they're giving up. If Colorado really is willing to eat half of the money AND take back Lowell and Tavarez, then I guess it's stomachable, but I really worry about 2009-2011, regardless of the price.