Following the franchise's first World Series appearance in 2007, the Colorado Rockies had high aspirations for the future.
In 2008, however, the Rockies disappointed on every level. They finished 14 games under .500 and were never in playoff contention.
This season is no better, as they currently sit at 18-28 in 2009.
One of the big factors that hurt their campaign last year was the limited role played by Todd Helton. In 2008, Helton played in only 83 games and hit a tepid .264.
As a career .320 batter, this was far from normal for the former Tennessee Volunteer. In fact, last week he reached a milestone by recording career hit No. 2,000 in Atlanta.
The only time before '08 that Helton had a season average below .300 was back in 1997, when he appeared in only 35 games and hit a very respectable .280. That means Helton went 10 straight years above .300, peaking at .372 in 2000.
Considering his four Silver Slugger awards (2000-03), it is easy to forget about his three gold glove awards at first base. Helton’s stellar defense, along with his offensive consistency, has earned him five All-Star appearances.
All of this adds up to make him one of the premier players of the last decade.
Through 42 games in 2009, Helton is back to his old form. He sits with a lofty .327 average.
However, the trade deadline is drawing closer, and despite Helton's production, the Rockies continue to struggle. Manager Clint Hurdle is in desperate need of some changes just to secure his job for next season.
Outside of the Rocky Mountains, there are numerous contenders looking to add an established hitter to their order. That is why this season Helton stands to be the offensive gem of the trading deadline. He could instantly improve the lineup of any team.
So, here are three potential destinations for Helton, in no particular order:
At age 36, Carlos Delgado is going to have a difficult time returning from hip surgery. He is scheduled to be out for around 10 weeks, but there is no way of knowing how his body will rehab from the procedure.
Currently, Fernando Tatis has been filling the void at first base, but he is much better suited as a late inning pinch hitter rather than as an everyday starter.
The team has been decimated by injuries in the past few weeks and they have been forced to enlist the services of journeyman Ramon Martinez and young prospect Fernando Martinez.
With that being said, the Mets could sure use an extra bat in their lineup. Despite having a team average of .284 (inflated by Carlos Beltran’s monster start), the Mets have scored just 219 runs and rank 13th in that category.
Helton's run production would bring a welcome aid to take the pressure off the bats of David Wright and Beltran.
Young Jeff Larish has been the DH recently for skipper Jim Leyland. However, he has been unimpressive, going just 12-54 in his short time with the club. Larish also has been limited to hitting right handed pitching only. He has just seven plate appearances against lefties and has yet to record a hit.
Helton is hitting an astonishing .362 against left-handers in 2009.
Leyland would much rather plug Helton in as the fifth hitter and DH. Helton could follow Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera and serve as protection for the two sluggers.
The spacious Comerica Park would also provide Helton endless gaps in right and left-center field to send his laser beam line drives.
Despite his 12 home runs, rookie first baseman Chris Davis is hitting just .203 and leads the majors with 71 strikeouts. Helton could bring a much-needed veteran presence to a young Rangers team that finds itself on top of the AL West.
The addition of Helton would make an already potent Ranger offense straight up frightening.
The Rangers could offer up young first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak signed late in 2008 and since then has hit the baseball extremely well. In AA Frisco, he is hitting .324 this season. Smoak is a switch-hitter with power and he also possesses an above average glove at first base.
He could be the future answer for success in Colorado.
The Rockies and Helton are currently locked into a contract through 2012. That year, his salary will increase to $23,000,000 and he will be 39 years old.
It makes sense for the Rockies to deal Helton while he remains hot at the plate and his trade value is high.
If Helton was traded, the Rockies could promote outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who is batting .344 this season in AAA Colorado Springs.
Gonzalez is just 23 years old but already is in his third organization. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 2002 by the Arizona Diamondbacks and was part of the Dan Haren trade in 2007, sending him to Oakland. He arrived in Colorado via free agency in 2009.
The promotion of Gonzalez would make him the Rockies starting right fielder. This would shift Brad Hawpe, who struggles defensively, to first base. Gonzalez would then play next to the young and athletic Dexter Fowler, who patrols centerfield.
All in all, it is time for the Rockies to change paths and look towards the future. Dealing Helton would be the first step in rebuilding what has become a very poor team.
As for Helton, there is no player more deserving of a chance to win the World Championship he so desperately wants.
He has given Colorado 13 years of leadership on the field and in the community. The club needs to recognize that now is the most beneficial time for both to go their separate ways.
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