I am nothing if not timely. Which basically means I'm nothing, since I'm way behind the curve on the Todd Helton-to-the-Red Sox trade that has apparently collapsed. I was all set to write a post about how the Rockies would be fools to not unload Helton at his salary (more than one-quarter of the team's total), even paying half of it or so. I was also going to say the Red Sox would perhaps be slightly foolish for getting him, even at a discounted price. His declining production has been well-documented, and he's on the wrong side of 30 with a lot of years left on his contract. On top of that, Helton's always had the benefit of playing in Coors Field, which the dramatic differences in his home/road splits reflect.
But now that the trade's apparently dead, it got me to thinking more about trading the face of a franchise. Helton is most certainly that for the Rockies, having outlived the stupendous likes of Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, and Vinny Castilla in Colorado. This is not a franchise that has a lot to live for, even in the perennially mediocre NL West. Which is why they should take the chance now and trade Helton.
Yes, he's the face of the franchise. Yes, fans will be disappointed to see him go. But winners aren't built on aging superstars sucking up 1/4 of the team's payroll. These are things that fans have to learn to deal with. Granted, Colorado doesn't have even remotely the same sort of fanbase as the Red Sox, who were able weather the loss of Nomar Garciaparra just fine. Nor do they probably have the kind of fanbase of even a club like the White Sox, who will most likely have to trust in Kenny Williams when he lets fan favorite Mark Buehrle go after this year. Hell, I didn't like to see Frank Thomas go--but the move had to be made, I'm happy to have seen him succeed this past year, and despite not making the playoffs I'm convinced the Sox are a better team with him gone. Similarly, I would've hated to have seen Paul Konerko go to the Angels last year, but if his contract requests were ridiculous, I would've understood the necessity.
Somehow the Rockies have deluded themselves into thinking that they can compete for the division title with Helton. What they need to do is make a move for the future health of the franchise rather than grasping at straws. Helton may be important psychologically for the Rockies, but I'm convinced they won't be winning the division with him. I'm not even convinced the Red Sox would make the playoffs with him.
The above is a Todd Helton heat map. Apparently he's only mildly hotter in Colorado than in Cleveland. Why, you ask? Who the fuck knows. Check out this site for more "heat maps" on everyone from Derek Jeter to Al Gore to your mom. I know you want to.