Rockies talking to Red Sox about trading Helton

The Colorado Rockies are in high-level talks to trade first baseman Todd Helton to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that could send third baseman Mike Lowell and right-handed reliever Julian Tavarez to Colorado.

According to the Denver Post, which reported the talks on its website, discussions between the two clubs are expected to resume Monday or Tuesday. Helton has a complete no-trade clause, but has reportedly told the Rockies he would be willing to accept a trade to Boston.

According to major league sources, conversations between the Red Sox and Rockies actually opened last fall, and at that time, one of the sides felt that there could be an acceptable framework to make a deal.

The conversation resumed at the ownership level about 10 days ago and has moved forward from there. Both sides are in virtual agreement on the dollars, with the Rockies likely responsible for slightly less than half of
Helton's remaining six-year, $90.1 million guaranteed contract.

In the current proposal, the Red Sox would send Lowell, Tavarez and prospects
to the Rockies. But the identity of the prospects could hold up the deal: The Rockies want relief pitchers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, while the Red Sox do not want to give up either at this time.

Todd Helton Helton

While Helton's power numbers have declined in recent years -- he has dropped from 33 home runs and a .630 slugging percentage in 2003 to 15 homers and a career-low .476 slugging percentage last season -- he still hit .302 with 165 hits, 40 of them doubles, and 81 RBIs in 2006.

Helton, 33, a 10-year veteran, is a career .333 hitter and three-time Gold Glove winner. He is a five-time All-Star, won the 2000 NL batting title with a .372 average and was runner-up to Kerry Wood in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1998.

But he comes at a price the Rockies are apparently no longer willing to pay.

Helton has six years remaining on his contract -- the remainder of a nine-year, $141.5 million extension he signed in 2003 -- leaving the Red Sox as as one of the few teams in the majors who could afford him. Rockies owner Charlie Monfort recently said he does not want to tie up so much of his team's payroll on one player -- at present Helton would take up $16.6 million of the Rockies' projected $55 million payroll -- and the Rockies unsuccessfully tried to deal Helton to the Los Angeles Angels last month.

Lowell, who came to Boston last year from Florida in the Josh Beckett trade, hit .284 last season, while Tavarez, a middle reliever and occasional starter, went 5-4 with a 4.47 ERA.

Buster Olney is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine.