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Todd Helton Rumors
The season ended Sunday for 19 of baseball's 30 teams, many of which feature players who will not be back in 2014. Here are some notes on players whose careers might (or might not) be over.
- Rockies great Todd Helton's illustrious career ended in Los Angeles, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. Dodgers broadcaster recorded a tribute to Helton that played on the scoreboard before the game, and he received a standing ovation for his last plate appearance. "The last at-bat, I got a little emotional, but other than that, it's Sept. 29th and I'm ready to go home," Helton says. Helton finishes his 17-year career with 369 home runs.
- Nationals manager Davey Johnson leaves the game with a 1372-1071 career record, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Johnson will continue on with the Nationals as a senior adviser, although he's not expected to play a strong role in the organization.
- Veteran lefty Darren Oliver ended his two-decade career with a perfect inning for the Blue Jays on Sunday, MLB.com's Evan Peaslee reports. "20 years — very few guys get to do that," Jays manager John Gibbons says. "Longevity in this business is hard to come by, but to do it for that long and be that effective until the very end that speaks volumes." Oliver, 42, also pitched for the Cardinals, Red Sox, Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Mets and Angels, and he had three separate stints with the Rangers. He finishes his career with a 4.51 ERA, 5.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 over 1,915 2/3 innings.
- White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko still hasn't announced whether he's retiring, but he left Sunday's game against the Royals to applause, reports MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After a tough .245/.314/.356 season, it's unclear whether Konerko will be back, and if so, if that might be in a part-time role. Merkin notes that Konerko think for a month this offseason about whether or not to return in 2014. If he does want to return, the White Sox will have to decide whether to re-sign him.
We've already shared a Nate McLouth free agent profile, some Blue Jays notes, Yankees notes and the news of Robinson Cano's contract demands today, so let's take a look around the rest of the AL East…
- This could be David Price's last season and playoff run with the Rays, as CBS Sports' Danny Knobler figures that this offseason (when Price has two remaining years of team control) is the perfect time for the Rays to maximize their return on a trade.
- Rays third baseman Evan Longoria looked up to Derek Jeter as a kid, yet he didn't emulate Jeter by playing for the Yankees but rather by staying with one franchise for his career, Harvey Araton of the New York Times writes. Robinson Cano has the opportunity to be a one-franchise player if he re-signs with the Yankees this offseason and Longoria believes Cano will stay because the Yankees are always looking to contend. “I’m sure Robby realizes that his organization is never going into a year saying they are rebuilding,” Longoria said. “You can’t not like that, or respect that.”
- Unless David Ortiz goes on the DL over the next four days, the Red Sox slugger has stayed healthy enough to add an extra $4MM to his 2014 salary, ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes writes. Ortiz the first 20 days of the season on the DL with his right Achilles injury but hasn't returned, so he is now guaranteed $15MM in the final year of his two-year contract with the Sox.
- The Red Sox were Todd Helton's last opponent at Coors Field, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes that the Sox twice tried to acquire Helton from the Rockies. A proposed 2002 blockbuster would've seen Helton and Larry Walker go to Boston in exchange for a trade package headlined by Manny Ramirez, and then in 2008 the Rockies turned down an offer of Mike Lowell for Helton straight-up.
- The time has come for the Orioles to increase payroll and add the necessary remaining pieces to their contending roster, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun argues.
Todd Helton recently announced that he will retire after the 2013 season, providing an opportunity to reflect on his excellent career. Helton will spend his entire big-league tenure with one team, a rarity in this era, and that's due at least in part to the gigantic $142MM extension he signed in 2001.
Helton has had a textbook career path. He reached the Majors at age 23, improved through his first three seasons, and peaked from ages 26 through 30, then began a long, gradual decline phase, playing less and less effectively as his power, and then his ability to hit for average, deserted him. His career has also been typical in that he was dramatically underpaid for many of his best years and overpaid for many of his worst ones. Helton produced 8.3 wins above replacement as a 26-year-old in 2000, when he made $1.3MM. He produced between 5.5 and 7.1 WAR in all of the next four seasons, then never topped 4.4 WAR again.
Helton's massive contract did not kick in until 2003, which means that the Rockies paid $142MM and only got two seasons above 4.4 WAR. For the life of the contract, the Rockies received 30 WAR over nine years. That's not a terrible total, but it's not a good one either, given that a win on the free-agent market in, say, 2005 was worth much less than the $5-6MM it's worth now. Fangraphs' dollar values suggest that Helton was worth $105MM over the life of the contract, about $37MM less than he was paid. (Helton would have been arbitration-eligible in 2003, also, which means he also might have made a hair less in that season, one of his best in the entire contract, than the $10.6MM the extension paid him.)
The deal also made Helton one of MLB's highest-paid players even though the Rockies have never really been a high-payroll team, and there were several years in which Helton's contract made up about a quarter of the Rockies' Opening Day payroll. The Rockies made the playoffs twice and had three winning seasons over the life of the contract.
None of that is Helton's fault. He was an outstanding player in his prime and a pretty good one in his 30s, and the Rockies just happened to pay too heavily for him. It was a little surprising, then, that as they watched Helton's decline years unfold, they signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to another bank-busting contract.
Tulowitzki's contract was, in a way, even more remarkable than Helton's, in that the Rockies committed to it in late 2010 even though they already had Tulowitzki under control through 2014, after which he would be 30 years old. The Rockies effectively committed $119MM in new money to cover the 2015 through 2020 seasons, ending right around Tulowitzki's 36th birthday. From 2015 through 2019, Tulowitzki will make $20MM per year. For much of that time, they'll also have Carlos Gonzalez's backloaded $80MM contract to contend with. Gonzalez agreed to his deal, which essentially bought out four pre-free-agency seasons at $27MM and three free-agent years for $53MM, five weeks after Tulowitzki got his.
Tulowitzki's performance since he signed the contract has revealed both its potential upside and its potential downside. If he continues to play as he has in 2013, when he has produced 5.5 WAR, the contract will be a bargain. But as he ages, it will be difficult to sustain that level of performance, particularly if he suffers more injuries like the groin strain that caused him to miss much of the 2012 season.
So why did the Rockies sign Tulowitzki to such an enormous extension? "It was the right thing to do," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said at the time. "We believe in character, team and integrity."
The extension reportedly grew out of a broader conversation between Tulowitzki and O'Dowd. "The maturity of understanding the continuity and stability of things and what he's trying to become as a man led me to say to our owner, 'I think maybe we should explore this right now,'" O'Dowd said. The Rockies evidently believe that character, maturity and other intangibles are very valuable. Many teams talk about the importance of character, but there's ample reason to believe it when the Rockies are doing the talking.
Of course, keeping a star player in a market surely has financial value in merchandise sales and fan loyalty. That kind of value is difficult to measure for us outsiders, but the Rockies surely have some idea what kind of loyalty value the Helton extension has provided, and how keeping Tulowitzki around for several more years might benefit them beyond just his performance on the field. Regardless, it's difficult to imagine how those sorts of tough-to-measure benefits might compensate for the $37MM the Rockies appear to have overpaid Helton for his performance from 2003 through 2011, and the Rockies' performance as a team over that period hasn't helped answer those questions.
Tulowitzki is a different player, obviously, and his extension may turn out well. In fact, it's less risky than Helton's was. The $20MM annual salaries for 2015 through 2019 are high, but they aren't that high when one accounts for salary inflation. If a win is worth $5-6MM now, it could easily be worth $6-7MM in, say, 2018, which means that Tulowitzki would only need to provide about 3 WAR annually to make the deal a decent one for the Rockies. (It's hard to say for sure how new TV deals will continue to affect the salary landscape, but the Rockies' expires in 2014.) There's also the fact that Tulowitzki plays good defense, or at least he does now — his ability to field at a premium position should prevent the contract from being a complete debacle.
Of course, that assumes he stays healthy. Tulowitzki missed significant chunks of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 seasons with injuries, and players tend not to get healthier as they get older. Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire points out the parallels between Tulowitzki and Nomar Garciaparra, who suffered from a number of injuries and never put up a star-caliber season after age 29. As Lemire also points out, though, Derek Jeter also had an enormous contract that carried him through his mid-30s, and he played very well until almost the very end of it.
Unless the Rockies substantially raise their payroll in the coming years, the Tulowitzki extension does represent a risk. Tulowitzki's injuries could continue to be a problem as he enters his 30s, a decade that is generally unkind to ballplayers anyway. Unlike Helton's contract, though, Tulowitzki's deal won't make him one of the sport's highest-paid players, and Tulowitzki won't have to perform at quite as high a level as Helton would have to justify the contract.
Todd Helton will retire from baseball at the conclusion of this season, the Rockies' longtime franchise player told Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Helton told Renck he unofficially decided during Spring Training that 2013 would be the end of his career (and hinted about it at the time) and while he pondered continuing playing due to improved health, the veteran slugger has now made the choice to hang up his cleats after 17 Major League seasons.
"It just seems like it's time. It's a young man's game. I am 40 years old," Helton said. "I am looking forward to doing something else besides baseball. Whatever that may be. I am not sure yet."
Helton entered Saturday's action with a .244/.316/.407 line, 13 homers and 51 RBI in 386 PA. He has had a few more injury issues this season and had mostly settled into a part-time role with the Rockies, which Helton said he could've continued in for a few more seasons but felt it was time to walk away:
"If I could play 81 games at home next year, I could do it. I could do it for a couple of more years. And if they had the games scheduled for the same time so I could get a sleeping pattern, I would have a chance. I am sure come next February, probably even in December when it's usually time to start getting ready, it will be tough."
Helton was a two-sport star at the University of Tennessee, serving as the Volunteers' quarterback before a knee injury opened the door for a rather heralded backup (Peyton Manning) to take the job and never look back. Helton turned his full attention to baseball and was selected by the Rockies as the eighth overall pick of the 1995 draft. The left-handed slugger spent his entire career in Colorado and is the franchise's leader in virtually every counting stat, including homers, hits, walks, runs, total bases, doubles, RBIs, games played, at-bats, plate appearances,
With a resume that includes 367 homers, 2504 hits, 1394 RBIs and a .317/.415/.539 slash line, Helton will certainly receive some serious Hall of Fame consideration in five years' time. His Cooperstown critics will argue that Helton was aided by playing at Coors Field (a career 1.048 OPS in home games), though Helton still posted an impressive .856 OPS over his career in away games. This perception that he was partly a creation of Denver's thin air dogged Helton throughout his career, as he never finished higher than fifth in NL MVP voting.
Helton has earned just shy over $161.5MM during his career, according to Baseball Reference. The bulk came from his nine-year, $141MM extension signed before the 2001 season, and in March 2010, Helton signed an extension that covered the 2012-13 seasons that included deferring some money from his previous deal.
Todd Helton says he won't play for anyone but the Rockies, reports MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. It sounds like Helton is considering retirement: "I have other interests in my life besides baseball, even though I enjoy everything about it," he says. "… I do have other things in my life — kids, family — and a lot of things that the game has given me the chance to enjoy." Helton is in his 17th season playing for only the Rockies, and Bloom points out that Helton holds records in homers, doubles, hits, RBIs and runs scored for the young franchise. He is set to become a free agent after the season. Here are more notes from the two West divisions.
- The Rangers are "growing confident" that they'll be able to trade outfielder Julio Borbon, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports. The Rangers designated Borbon for assignment on Tuesday. Sullivan says that the Rangers aren't expecting much in return, which makes sense — Borbon is 27 and has yet to establish himself in the majors. Texas might receive a reliever in return for Borbon, Sullivan suggests.
- For reliever Dane De La Rosa, pitching for the Angels is "a bit of a childhood dream," writes MLB.com's William Boor. De La Rosa grew up in Southern California, but spent the last three years with the Rays organization, mostly pitching thousands of miles to the east in Triple-A Durham and Double-A Montgomery before making his big-league debut in 2011. The Rays traded De La Rosa to the Angels for Steve Geltz in late March. "It's just cool being able to play on the West Coast, actually showing my family and friends that I do play baseball," says De La Rosa. "I don't think they believed me for the past few years, just because I've been so far away. It's just nice to be around family and I've had a lot of friends come out."
On this date in 1896, the National League forbids players from deliberately soiling baseballs (and thus enabling the legend of future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry)‚ declares "a ball cutting the corners of the home plate‚ and being the requisite height‚ must be called a strike" and empowers umpires to eject players. Here's the latest news and notes from this century's National League:
- The Cubs don't anticipate the Yankees inquiring about Alfonso Soriano in the wake of Curtis Granderson's broken right forearm, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote such a deal could make sense for the Yankees.
- Nate Schierholtz explained to reporters, including the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, why he signed with the Cubs when he reportedly had offers from contending teams like the Yankees. "There were a lot of factors that played into it," the outfielder said. "I think this team is young and we have a very good chance to win quick. I really believe in this team."
- Right-hander Julio Teheran would have to struggle mightily to lose the fifth spot in the Braves' starting rotation, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith charted recently, the Braves could maintain team control over Teheran through 2019 by waiting until late-June to recall him. The Braves could also prevent Teheran from earning Super Two status by keeping him in the minors until mid-August.
- The Phillies have ten outfielders in camp and manager Charlie Manuel says a roster decision on at least four of them will need to be made about two-thirds of the way through Spring Training, reports David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News.
- Todd Helton told Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown he understands his career is coming to an end. "I realize I'm never going to be sitting here in this moment again," the 39-year-old Rockie said. "There are many factors in this. My family. What it's like to be away from home. I love everything about this, but the travel."
The Rangers have financial flexibility following a relatively quiet offseason, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). However, they aren’t desperate for a starting pitcher at this stage. Here are the latest links from around MLB…
- Daniel Nava represented himself for the early part of his MLB career, but he has now hired an agent, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports. Joe Sambito of SFX now represents Nava, who posted a .243/.352/.390 batting line in 317 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 2012. Check out MLBTR’s Agency Database for more information on player representatives.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post would be “really surprised” if Todd Helton plays again in 2014 (Twitter link). It’d be complicated for the Rockies to bring Helton back in anything but a part-time Jason Giambi-like role. Helton will earn $5MM in 2013 before hitting free agency.
- ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wonders if the Nationals could pursue Robinson Cano as a free agent next offseason (Twitter link). Cano will appeal to many teams if he reaches free agency, though there’s no guarantee that’ll happen. The Yankees appear to be prepared to discuss a significant long-term contract with their longtime second baseman.
- Olney suggested in his most recent blog entry that the Cubs and Dodgers could also bid for Cano. The Yankees' baseball operations department could be prepared to commit $189MM or so over seven years for Cano in Olney's view.
The Phillies have been a playoff contender for the better part of the past half decade, but time and a decline in talent may mean the window of opportunity is quickly closing at Citizens Bank Park, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. "A lot of it will depend on how people perform, on how the young players perform," Amaro said. "At some point we're going to be filtering some young players onto this club and we need to find out who needs to be those guys to keep us going, to keep us afloat." Here's the latest news from around the National League.
- Scott Boras believes the market is heating up for his unsigned clients like Kyle Lohse and Jose Valverde thanks to the start of Spring Training, says Adam Berry of MLB.com. "Like most free agents with that kind of ability, I think you get all kinds of calls. Frankly the calls increase during Spring Training rather than decrease because the need level of each club is more evident," Boras said. "These are ownership decisions at this point. The talent is there.
- Walt Weiss must put his stamp on every aspect of his squad as he enters the 2013 season as the Rockies first-year manager, writes Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post. Renck points to Todd Helton as the starting point with his declining skills, inability to play a full season and the lingering DUI arrest that must be addressed by the veteran first baseman in front of the team.
- John Mozeliak's contract extension from the Cardinals stems from his linear integration model that has paid dividends in the form of victories at the Major League level, says Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think he’s got a real sense of how to make a decision and a recommendation and not panicking into doing something that is good for the moment,” Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said.
The big news out of the NL West today is Justin Upton's rejection of a trade that would have sent him to the Mariners in exchange for four of Seattle's top young players. The deal would've been a big risk for both sides, though since the Diamondbacks have other outfield options to potentially replace Upton, the bulk of the risk would've fallen on Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. As a source opines to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), Upton may have "saved Jack Z's job" by rejecting the trade and keeping so much top-flight young talent in Seattle.
Here are some more items from around the NL West…
- The "strained relationship" between Upton and the Diamondbacks makes it seem that Upton will be playing elsewhere by Spring Training, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
- In a chat with fans at MLB.com that took place before the latest Upton news broke, Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall discussed all of the speculation about the outfielder. "All of the media speculation is unfortunate, but not unusual," Hall noted, saying that other teams had been telling the media about their interest in Upton.
- Todd Helton told reporters (including Troy Renck of the Denver Post) that he is recovering well from hip surgery and confirmed he will return for his 17th Major League season. Helton is entering the final year of his contract with the Rockies and said in September that he wanted to play in 2013 if his health permitted.
- Dodgers prospect Zach Lee has no regrets about choosing baseball over college football stardom, he tells MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Lee was the 28th overall pick of the 2010 draft and received a $5.25MM bonus to sign with the Dodgers instead of playing football at LSU.
- The millions earned by Major League stars obscures the fact that most minor leaguers earn very modest paychecks, as MLB.com's Corey Brock explores how several Padres prospects make ends meet during the offseason.
"I think, physically, I will be able to come back," Helton said. "So I plan on coming back, but there are a couple of things still on my mind. I want to know I have a good chance to make it through next year — healthy. That will factor into it."
Helton hit .238/.343/.400 with seven homers in 283 plate appearances this season, reaching new career lows in batting average and on-base percentage. The 39-year-old battled injuries for much of the season and underwent surgery in August for a torn hip labrum, which Helton says is now feeling much better. As per the extension Helton signed before the 2010 season, he will earn $5MM in 2013, his last contracted year with Colorado.
Beyond fitness, Helton notes that the Rockies' future plans will also play a role in his decision. Colorado could be looking to rebuild after a disastrous 2012 season and give younger players a look at first base, though you would think the Rockies would accommodate a franchise icon like Helton in what would probably be his final year. Helton told Saunders that he doesn't expect to be an everyday player next season but he wants to be more than a reserve.
"I will have to have ample days off. I know that. If I come back, I expect to play as much as I can. How much? It's hard to tell," Helton said.