Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hot Stove, Bosox Edition

Drew's deal is finally official; Sox eye deal for Rockies' Helton

The Red Sox have solidified one half of the right side of their diamond and are looking at a deal that could shore up the other half of it.

The long-delayed signing of right fielder J.D. Drew was finally completed yesterday when the Sox and Drew's agent, Scott Borass came to terms on the language necessary to satisfy both parties enough to seal the 5-year, $70 million dollar deal.

Boston had expressed concern over the length of the deal and the fact that they could be paying a man who cannot lift his arm above his shoulder by the final years. Drew has had prior shoulder woes and had holes drilled into the shoulder where cartilage had to be reattached in September of 2005.

Needless to say Boston's brass wanted some insurance that if Drew couldn't fulfill his end of the deal the team could recoup some of the cash they are paying him. Everything got worked out when the parties agreed that Boston could opt out of the deal after 3 years if Drew spends time on the DL for injuries relating to the original surgery anytime during the third season.

Which would then make it Theo's 3-year, $42 million dollar disaster instead of a $70 million dollar dud.

Let's just keep our fingers crossed, RSN, that Drew remains healthy enough to knock in 100 runs, bat .300 and hit 20-25 homers and displays a never-before-seen passion for both the game & his new, hyper-critical home.

While the Drew signing officially took 52 days to complete it looks like a deal for Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton might not take Boston as long to consummate.
The Denver Post is reporting that talks have gotten underway between the two clubs regarding a deal that would send 3B Mike Lowell and Human Gas Can Julian Tavarez from Lans-downe St. to the corner of 20th & Blake for 3-time Gold Glove winner Helton. Sticking points in the deal revolve around the fact that the Rockies want the Sox to throw in young hurlers Matt-apan Manny Delcarmen and/or potential closer Craig Hanson. That's when the Sox said "uh-uh."

Helton was one of the premiere slugging and fielding first basemen in the game when Colorado inked him to a massive 9-year, $141 million dollar deal in 2001. The 5-time All Star has a career .333 batting average, currently the best among active players, and is the cornerstone of the Rockies franchise. The team knows it will suffer a significant backlash for trading away such an team icon but ownership realizes that a crappy team + aging player that will account for 33% of the entire payroll next season= bad business model.

If the package can be worked out Boston would be on the hook for another injury-prone, expensive player for the right side of their field, along with Drew. Helton has been plagued by back issues for a few years now and was sidelined last year for 14 games due to a mysterious stomach ailment. His numbers fell well off his career averages when he hit .301 with only 15 homers with 81 RBIs; from 1999-2004 Helton averaged 36 homers and 121 RBIs while batting

Losing Lowell would be a blow to the Sox, but not one they couldn't overcome. Acquired as an albatross contract weighing down the Josh Beckett deal Lowell turned in a stellar season (.284, 20 HRs, 47 2Bs, 80 RBIs) for Boston and quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his hustle, sparkling fielding & clutch hitting and likable demeanor. But his age and potential drop off in production make him a piece that Boston can wield in deals where a team is looking for a solid veteran third baseman. Plus then they can just move Youk back to third where, although he played quite admirably at first last year, I believe he is better suited.

It will be interesting to see if the Sox do pull off this deal what the reaction will be compared to the Drew deal. Helton is still owed $90 million for 6 years and even if Colorado picks up half of that, as has been speculated the would have to do in order to facilitate a deal, if he doesn't produce will the fans cut him more slack because he is perceived as a gritty, "dirt dog"-type as opposed to Drew's laid-back surfer style?

What I know is that Helton would immediately solidify a position that has been a black hole for Boston since Big Mo left to go slide down the dugout steps in Anaheim. In his prime Helton had the glove of JT Snow and the bat of Jim Thome. Even if he is less than 100% he is still leagues better than the stiffs (Brian Daubach, Kevin Millar, Mike Stanley, and Tony Clark ) who have manned the position since 1998. Is his health a factor, like Drew's? Yes. But the Sox have proved they are willing to roll the "Dice" (pun intended) in order to erase the memories of last season.

One thing is for sure- with Drew, Matsuzaka, Lugo, Joel Pinero, JC Romero, and possibly Helton this team looks a whole lot different than the disappointing 3rd place club from 2006.

20 days until pitchers & catchers report.

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