Todd Helton Rumors

Odds and Ends: Abreu, Beckett, Helton, Schilling

Friday afternoon rumor tidbits…

  • The Indians will probably let Kenny Lofton leave while exercising Joe Borowski’s $4MM option.  No big surprise there.
  • Nor is it a surprise that the Yankees are heavily leaning towards exercising Bobby Abreu‘s $16MM option.
  • From the what might’ve been department: Red Sox owner John Henry was in favor of signing A.J. Burnett instead of trading for Josh Beckett.  One could make a solid argument that the Red Sox would be better off if Henry had gotten his wish.  Beckett and Julio Lugo combined for 8.6 wins at $14MM this year while Burnett and Hanley Ramirez combined for 14.8 wins at $12.4MM (according to WARP).
  • From that same department – Tom Gage notes that the Tigers once nearly acquired Todd Helton for Tony Clark.  There were many Clark rumors from 1999-2001 before the Red Sox claimed him off waivers.  I heard Buck and McCarver talking recently about how Helton is not a product of his home park.  For the record Helton has hit .368/.474/.668 at home in his career and .304/.409/.515 on the road.  He probably belongs in the Hall but it would be a lot tighter if his career OPS was .924 instead of 1.014.
  • Nick Cafardo makes his case for the Red Sox to re-sign Curt Schilling.
  • A scouting look at Hiroki Kuroda, plus other Japanese pitchers who may come over (hat tip to MetsBlog).  Jason Churchill estimates a three-year deal for Kuroda at $9-11MM per.
  • How would you like to face a 125 mph fastball?

Renck’s Latest Rockie Rumors

Rockies beat reporter Troy E. Renck had the scoop on all kinds of Rockie rumors yesterday; I’m just now getting to it.  Let’s look at some highlights from his column.

  • Renck suggests the Rox take a look at Bob Wickman.  Meanwhile, the Phillies actually inquired but aren’t expected to work out a deal.  The Indians will take a pass.
  • Renck mentions that the Rockies have "long coveted" catcher Paul Lo Duca.  Lo Duca should be there for the signing this winter.
  • The Rockies will have around $45MM tied up in Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Brian Fuentes, and Aaron Cook for 2008.  Even if the team raises its $55MM payroll, someone has to go.  By the way, locking up Holliday long-term will cost a king’s ransom.  He’s a Scott Boras client.
  • Given the burden of Todd Helton‘s contract and his no-trade clause, he may be immovable.  But a .400 OBP is still valuable any way you slice it, so perhaps the Red Sox or Angels will get re-engaged.  Renck believes Atkins and Fuentes are the main trading chips to clear payroll though.  The Angels and Twins could still use Atkins while the Phils, Red Sox, and Yankees have inquired on Fuentes in the past.  Atkins for a Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker just makes too much sense.

Helton Hints At Approving Yankee Trade

Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post has some quotes from Todd Helton that seem to indicate he’d at least consider approving a deal to the Yankees.  Said Helton: "I have never said publicly that I wouldn’t go to any team."

That technically puts the Washington Nationals in play.  Just kidding.  Renck then asked Helton specifically about the Yankees, and he replied: "They’d have to want me first."  He makes a good point.  But maybe the urge to play for a winner is getting to Helton; it seems like he’d go to New York if they could work something out.

Helton’s contract remains among the worst in baseball.  I don’t know who Michael Moye is, but props to him for negotiating this beast.  Helton makes $16.6MM annually through 2010.  Then he makes $19.1MM in 2011 and gets a $4.6MM buyout in 2012.  Or would Helton require the acquiring team to exercise the $23MM option for 2012 as compensation for allowing the trade? 

Back in January, the Rockies wouldn’t pitch in more than $36.6MM.  At that point, Helton was owed $90.1MM through 2011 (that assumes no concession for waiving the no-trade).  Based on the talks with Boston, the Rockies will pay off about 40% of this thing and not require much in the way of young players in return.  The Rockies have already paid Helton about $7.07MM this season.  So they’d still probably be open to kicking in $33MM toward Helton’s remaining contract. 

An acquiring team would be looking at $57MM for 4.57 seasons of Helton (if he is traded today). That equates to an annual salary just under $12.5MM.  If Helton hit the free agent market after this season as a 34 year-old, could he get a four-year, $50MM deal?  I believe he could.  I’m starting to think a Helton deal may be reached this summer, as his contract is not ridiculous if the Rockies pay 40% of it.

Healey’s Latest

Mark Healey at Gotham Baseball has long been a solid, underappreciated source of inside information.  He’s got another Rumor Mill up at his site.  My summary follows.

  • The Yankees have an eye on big-name 1Bs like Mark Teixeira and Todd Helton.  But more realistically, they’re looking at Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena.  He’s got the defense, so even if he regresses to a 20 HR bat it’s a nice pickup.  Healey’s source believes Tyler Clippard is too much but the Rays like Sean Henn.  The Yanks have also inquired about the versatile Ty Wigginton.
  • The Reds, Rockies, and others have been scouting the Yankees’ Double A Trenton affiliate.  Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Brett Gardner are probably the most desirable players on that roster.  Gotham Baseball has previously connected the Yankees to Brian Fuentes and David Weathers.  Another reliever the Yankees like is Chad Bradford, though the O’s price may be too high.
  • Gotham quotes an NL scout who doesn’t believe the Mets will acquire a starter by trading Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, or Fernando Martinez.  That scout believes the return of Pedro will supply the needed boost.  Personally, I can see Milledge going.
  • Some former Mets on the radar: Brady Clark, Jay Payton, and David Weathers.
  • Healey says the Mets sent scouts to look at Randy Winn this weekend.  They must not be pleased with Moises Alou‘s progress.  As I mentioned earlier, Winn is signed through 2009.  He has a full no-trade clause this year.  For 2008-09 he can block deals to ten teams.
  • The Pirates have some vets to trade, and have contacted the Mets regarding Shawn Chacon and Damaso Marte.  Marte is quietly having a fine season with a 1.21 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  Marte earns $2.45MM this year, and $2MM in ’08 with an odd $6MM club option for 2009.  He can also earn incentives based on games finished.

Cafardo On Curt Schilling

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wants Curt Schilling signed for 2008 right now, but I still think waiting is wise.  As I said yesterday, Schilling started off 2006 the same way but his performance really diminished in the second half.

Troy Renck of the Denver Post doesn’t see the Red Sox expending any effort to acquire Todd Helton, which makes sense given the play of Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell.  He does mention that Boston still likes Helton, so maybe talks would be revisited if Lowell leaves via free agency this winter.  The Rockies, of course, should leave the door permanently open for Boston.

Yankees Looking At Helton, Fuentes

Plenty of Todd Helton to the Yankees rumors surfacing lately, the first of which came via Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball.  Healey also mentioned the Yanks’ interest in Brian Fuentes last Friday. 

Today, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post confirms those rumors on the Rockies side of things.  While the interest in confirmed, Renck says "nothing is brewing."  Guess we’ll have to wait a month or so, to see if desperation sets in. 

There had been a lot of talk of the "New Yankees," who are building from within and not taking on ridiculous contracts.  But with players like Bobby Abreu, Roger Clemens, and Helton, the Yankees are simply using financial clout like the old days.  I suppose holding onto Phil Hughes is a step in the right direction though.

Renck’s Latest

Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post has a host of trade rumors in his recent column.  Let’s break it down:

  • Time to restart those Todd Helton rumors, as the first baseman is hitting a robust .360/.473/.533.  Renck thinks a trade to Detroit is unlikely, but that the Yankees, Red Sox, or Braves could make a play for him this summer.  The Yanks came up recently via Mark Healey.  Maybe with Helton’s strong start, the Rockies can get their part of Helton’s $90MM contract down to $30MM.
  • Renck likes the Rockies, Braves, and Red Sox as suitors for Rocco Baldelli.  Rocco hopes to return in early June from a strained left hamstring.  I wouldn’t expect a deal until at least late June.
  • The Astros apparently are not making Chris Burke available despite his demotion.  That’s a shame, because the Rockies like him.  The Rox are hoping to see Kaz Matsui return from a back strain this week, so we’ll see how that goes first.
  • The Angels still have interest in Garrett Atkins but talks haven’t been serious.  Seems odd that Dan O’Dowd would sell low on Atkins at this point, but I guess it depends on the return and the Rockies’ projections for him.

Yankees Considering Helton?

For all the talk of how the Yankees have changed, the team went back to its old brute force spending approach to add the one available free agent difference-maker in Roger Clemens.  Ten games behind the Red Sox and in third place, it seems they may be considering another expensive acquisition.  According to Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball, the Yanks are considering acquiring Todd Helton to play first base.  The Rockies might have to accept a contract in return, perhaps Kyle Farnsworth‘s.  I would except a Helton deal to resemble the Bobby Abreu trade, where the Yankees mostly provide salary relief rather than players. 

The Yankees’ offense has been kind of average in May.  However, the .262/.347/.460 line they’ve gotten from Josh Phelps and Doug Mientkiewicz is about league average for the position.  It’s far from a major need.

Aside from the Angels, there aren’t many teams that could take on Helton’s contract or even compete for his services.  In contrast, one Rockie likely to be coveted by is closer Brian Fuentes.  Healey says he’s on the Yanks’ radar as well.  Fuentes is a 31 year-old lefty with 75 career saves.  He’ll be a free agent after the 2008 season.

Helton Meets With Rockies’ Owner

Take it for what it’s worth – Rockies first baseman Todd Helton met with team owner Charlie Monfort on Thursday but declined to comment on the nature of the conversation.  In the opinion of Buster Olney:

"If the Red Sox and Rockies rekindled trade talks, getting a deal done might take about 3.4 seconds, because there was already a structure in place and both sides would have great reason to be motivated to get this done."

And Ken Davidoff of Newsday mentioned today:

"The widespread industry belief is that the Red Sox and Rockies will re-ignite trade discussions involving Todd Helton. The two clubs remain stalled in a game of chicken. Boston doesn’t want to give up any young players with potential, with only expensive veterans Mike Lowell and Julian Tavarez on the table, and the Rockies don’t want to hand over Helton in a straight salary dump."

The Red Sox remain in the catbird seat with this potential deal, as Helton is not a strong need for them in any way. They can just sit back and see if the Rockies cave and pay $40-45MM of his contract to get Manny Delcarmen.

Rockies Approached O’s About Helton

Here’s a new one: the Rockies approached the Orioles several weeks ago to try to interest them in Todd Helton.  The Orioles balked when the Rockies suggested they pay a significant portion of Helton’s insane contract.

Surely the Orioles realized they’d have to pay at least $30MM over the next five years.