Numerous sources are reporting that the Red Sox are in serious discussions to trade for Rockies’ firstbaseman Todd Helton. Most versions have Helton headed to Fenway in exchange for Mike Lowell, Julian Tavarez, and a pair of prospects. The prospects are still being wrangled over, but according to ESPN’s version, the Rockies are demanding relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, with the Red Sox holding out for a better deal in which they won’t give up as much.
My first reaction was that this would be a great deal for the Red Sox. Lowell and Tavares would not be missed much, and even if the Sox had to give up Hansen and Delcarmen, they would be giving up two pitchers who have yet to show much at the major league level, if they ever will, and they would be getting one of the best-hitting first baseman around.
Although Helton is due to earn $16.6 million this year and almost $90 million total for the remaining six years on his contract, the Red Sox have clearly demonstrated this offseason that money is no object for them, and besides, the Rockies are proposing to pick up nearly half of the remaining tab.
But then I had a look at Helton’s actual numbers in recent years, instead just going off his reputation.
Helton has clearly been in decline over the last several seasons. From his best year in 2000 when he batted .372, smashed 42 homers, and OPS’d 1.161, he has fallen to .302, 15 homers, and an .880 OPS. Now those certainly aren’t horrible numbers, but is that really that much better than what Mike Lowell would provide?
Plus there is always the issue of Coors Field. While it is true that hitters have historically not had as big falloffs when they leave Coors as pitchers do when they come to Coors, like all Rockies players Helton’s home-road splits are ridiculous: last season he batted .338 and had a .445 OPB in Denver, compared to only .266 and .360 on the road. While it is true that Fenway is generally a hitter’s park, it is a much better hitter’s park for righthanded hitters, as opposed to lefties like Helton, and which split is Helton more likely to approximate at sea level?
What is clear is that this would be a great trade for the Rockies. Even if they had to pick up a significant share of Helton’s salary for the next six years, they would still be clearing tens of millions of dollars from their payroll. Plus they would be picking up a small motorboat-load of useful players, without making their lineup significantly worse. After all, Lowell’s numbers can be expected to increase at Coors.