Todd Helton Is Hurt, So Who's at First Base for the Colorado Rockies?
It's been no secret that Todd Helton has struggled this season.
A line of .246/.336/.310/.646 with only two home runs isn't what the Rockies were expecting out of their soon to be 37-year-old first baseman—especially one that is making $16.6 million, or near one-sixth of the entire Rockies payroll.
Now Helton is on the disabled list with a bad back. The bad back is nothing new; Helton had surgery after the 2008 season and in 2009 bounced back with a solid line of .325/.416/.489/.904.
That gave the organization and Rockies fans hope that Helton would be a solid contributor as he finishes out his contract, which just this spring he reworked to spread out payments for next year over four more years. This was a selfless move on Helton's part, as he didn't have to do that.
Now, however, there are question marks around Helton. Will he be able to come back? Will he be able to play every day? Will he be serviceable as a major leaguer if he does? Is this the end of Helton's career, if not now, then this season? And what is the future of the Rockies at first base?
What are their options at first base for 2010 without Todd Helton? Let's take a look at their options this year.
He's not the long-term answer. He's two years older than Helton. He's very stiff at first now as well as on the basepaths. Giambi comes in with a -1.6 UZR and a .700 RZR fielding, and that's bad, kids.
Giambi, however, has been heating up as the summer goes along and is hitting .500/.571/.500/1.071 in July.
Giambi isn't as good as he once was, but maybe he's as good once as he ever was.
He'll just need to wear the Golden Thong a little more in 2010.
Eldred put up great numbers in Colorado Springs, but he's no prospect. He's 30 years old and would be on the backside of his prime.
He played parts of two years with the Pirates and has a career line of .208/.259/.429/.688. He did, however, have 22 home runs in the Springs this year, leading all of the Rockies organization.
Here's to hoping he's a Disney movie in the flesh, but I wouldn't bet too much money on it.
Brad Hawpe was drafted as a first baseman out of LSU. Hawpe was a first baseman before he was moved to right field, as he would have been blocked by Helton. Hawpe's natural position is first base.
Moving Brad to first would also free up playing time for Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs, with Dexter Fowler in center and Carlos Gonzalez in right, which would be the best possible OF for the Rockies both offensively and defensively.
However, Hawpe has had issues offensively since last year's All-Star Game and is hitting just .276/.354/.459/.813 this season with only five home runs and his own stay on the disabled list. He has however been heating up on this last home stand.
Complicating the long-term outlook for Hawpe is his contract, which has a big increase for next year unless the Rockies buy it out at half a million, which everyone assumes will happen.
Many people have suggested that Iannetta would eventually move to first base. He's only an average defensive catcher.
He's still relatively young at 27, but Iannetta has yet to fully put it together as a hitter in the major leagues. He's had good pop and has several walks, but his career line is only .240/.359/.448/.807.
He has several defenders in Rockies fandom that point out that the .807 OPS is amazing and say he just needs more playing time. This year he got a trip to Colorado Springs to clear his head and work on his swing.
I like the flashes of power he's shown, and I want to believe there is more there. Maybe a move to first would allow him to concentrate just on his hitting. It might help Iannetta to not be a catcher.
The flip side of Iannetta at first is his numbers aren't corner infield type numbers. Even his most ardent supporters will point out that Iannetta's hitting is good...FOR A CATCHER. His numbers as a first baseman are terrible.
Also, at 27 he's at his peak right now. In a couple of years he should be starting to decline. A decline from this year's line of .217/.337/.470/.807 will find Iannetta out of baseball unless he joins that group of veteran catchers that rotate around the minor leagues as organizational depth.
The Rockies have been rumored to be interested in Ty Wigginton, currently with the Orioles. Ty is 33-years-old and has a line this year of .253/.336/.443/.779.
The upside of Wigginton is his contract is very reasonable at $3.5 million for 2010, but he would be a free agent after this year.
An interesting rumor out there is that the Rockies are looking at free agent Jermaine Dye.
Dye is a current free agent who priced himself out of the market this last offseason. He was the worst rated outfielder last year, but he said he wanted to be a starting outfielder and not a DH.
He's played some first base, but would he do so for the Rockies? He is a right-handed power hitter, something the Rockies desperately need in their lineup, but at 36-years-old Dye is not a long-term solution.
Trade for a 2011 Free Agent as a Fill-In Rent-a-Player
The Rockies could trade for a fill-in rent-a-player. The following is a list of potential free agents at first for 2011.
Personally, I don't see the Rockies trading for any of these players. Most on this list, besides Pujols and Konerko, are aging and too expensive for the Rockies' budget even for just half a season, especially if the Rockies would have to give up a prospect of any quality for them.
This hasn't been the Rockies' model of operation and I don't see it changing now, but you never know—it IS an option.
Adam Dunn WAS
Lance Berkman HOU *
Wes Helms FLA
Paul Konerko CWS
Derrek Lee CHC
David Ortiz BOS *
Lyle Overbay TOR
Carlos Pena TB
Albert Pujols STL *
* = club has option for 2011