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Rockies get flexibility, Helton gets security

Mar 11, 2010, 6:12 PM EDT

Seeing a window to remain a top contender in the wide open NL West, the Rockies on Thursday made a trade with their own first baseman, giving him two additional years of security in exchange for an ability to defer $13.1 million beginning in 2011.
In what seems like a smart move for both sides, the Rockies will free up $8.4 million next year and get out from under the $4.6 million buyout of his 2012 club option. That was worth $23 million, so there was never any chance that it’d be picked up.
Helton, in return, gets a two-year, $9.9 million deal covering 2012 and 2013. If he played at a high level, maybe he could have done as well as a free agent after 2011. However, he would have been 38, and given his back woes, taking the money now seemed like a smart idea. After all, he easily could have received the Jermaine Dye-Jim Edmonds-Carlos Delgado treatment. Now he’s signed through age 40 and in great position to finish his career with the Rockies.
Helton’s massive nine-year, $141.5 million contract has long been a problem for the Rockies. In 2006, he took up 40 percent of the club’s payroll all by himself. He was nearly traded to the Red Sox after that season. Colorado was willing to pick up $53.5 million of the $90.1 million he was still owed, only to see the deal fall apart over prospects.
Things have gotten far better since, though. Helton was a key part of the team’s run to the World Series in 2007, and while he missed much of 2008, he bounced back to hit .325/.416/.489 in 151 games last year. He probably still isn’t worth the $16.6 million he’ll be paid this season, but since the Rockies have shed the rest of their bad contracts, he’s no longer holding the team back at all.

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