This winter, the Rockies said they were open to discussing trading Helton, knowing that they'll have to eat a significant portion of the $90.1 million Helton is owed through 2011. Monfort said the financial end is his main concern.
After years of paring their payroll, the Rockies have staked their future on young talent. Although Helton has been their leader, the Rockies feel they can trade him, still be a factor in the National League West, and most importantly, have financial flexibility to address weaknesses.
"The thing is, we think we can win the division this year, so we need to make sure we don't make any decisions that stray from that," Monfort said. "This is the kind of decision that we feel doesn't stray from us having a chance to win the division."
Monfort said the baseball side, specifically the players the Rockies might obtain, is being handled by general manager Dan O'Dowd, but those talks are on hold because O'Dowd is out of town because of a family matter.
The Denver Post reported on its Web site that the Rockies could be interested in a pair of pitching prospects, reliever Manny Delcarmen, 24, and 2005 first-round pick Craig Hansen. The Rocky Mountain News reported that the Red Sox proposed sending third baseman Mike Lowell and right-hander Julian Tavarez. ESPN.com reported that Sox veteran pitcher Matt Clement would have to be included. FoxSports.com identified Triple-A center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury as a target of the Rockies.
Helton signed a $141.5 million extension that activated in 2003. Not long after that, the Rockies and teams throughout the industry changed their payroll model and began jettisoning big contracts. Helton is the last of those deals, and his contract represents a large percentage of a 2007 Rockies payroll of between $50 million and $55 million.
However, this winter saw teams loosen their purse strings for free agents, so Helton's contract -- while cumbersome for the Rockies -- is not out of line.
"Todd's contract is very fair, considering the market and how it broke out this year," Monfort said. "And we've got players that we think can help us. They're not Todd Helton by any means, but if we have some money to spend to help fill a hole somewhere else, you've got to take a look at it."
Trading Helton, 33, who has starred for the Rockies since 1998 but has seen a decline in production because of injuries and illness the last two seasons, means the Rockies might have to fill the first-base hole from within if they don't receive a player for the position.
Monfort mentioned prospect Joe Koshansky, who turns 25 in May, as a possibility. Koshansky batted .284 with 31 home runs and 109 RBIs at Double-A Tulsa last season, and earned Rockies Minor League Player of the Year honors from the player development staff. Also, Monfort noted that the Rockies also have several players with a history at first base who have been moved over the years because of Helton's presence.
"If we cannot hurt the team in the short run by losing a talent such as Todd Helton and try to enhance it by bringing some young guys in that position, then we'd have some financial flexibility to spend money to fill some holes -- the outfield, the bullpen, wherever you decide to spend it," Monfort said.
This marks the second time that trade talks centering on Helton have gone public.
The Angels expressed interest during the Winter Meetings in December but talks didn't go far, whether it was because they weren't serious in the first place or that the suitors backed away because of Helton's recent health history. In 2005, he played through a back injury and made his first career trip to the disabled list with a calf strain. Last season, he went on the DL in May because of an intestinal ailment, and even after he returned to the lineup, he never regained his weight or strength.
However, Monfort said Helton "didn't have much interest" in the Angels, but "Boston is a place he'd possibly have interest in."
Helton has not submitted a list of teams to which he'd approve a trade, but addresses possible trades on a case-by-case basis, according to Monfort.