Helton may play for Sox

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DENVER (AP) – Todd Helton’s long run in Denver could end soon.

The Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox have been in trade discussions involving Helton for several weeks and those talks apparently are heating up.

The team’s most recognizable player, Helton has long been a fan favorite in Denver, but he has been beset by injuries and illness the last two seasons, and his power numbers have nose-dived.

He’s due to make $16.6 million this season on a team with a projected payroll of about $55 million, something team owner Charlie Monfort has called problematic.

Monfort didn’t return phone calls to The Associated Press over the weekend but he told mlb.com that Helton, who has a complete no-trade clause, has indicated he would be amenable to a trade to the Red Sox.

The Denver Post reported Sunday the Rockies are targeting young relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen and that Helton is prepared to nix any deal if it isn’t consummated soon because he doesn’t want to deal with any distractions during the season.

The Red Sox are reluctant to part with their young relievers but have offered third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Julian Tavarez, according to The Rocky Mountain News.

Negotiations are expected to resume early in the week when Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd returns to Denver after attending to a family matter out of town.

The 33-year-old Helton is due $90.1 million through 2011, but the Rockies would pay a portion of that if they trade him to the Red Sox. He is due $16.6 million in each of the next four seasons and $19.1 million in 2011 with a $4.6 million buyout in 2012.

Eager to finish above .500 this season, Monfort isn’t just seeking financial flexibility but also wants players in return who could contribute right away.

Helton, who signed with the Rockies as a first-round pick in 1995, has starred for Colorado since 1998. He signed a nine-year, $141.5 million extension that took effect in 2003.

Lowell will earn $9 million next season, the final year of his contract. Tavarez is guaranteed $3.1 million next season with a $3.85 million option for 2008 that is guaranteed if he makes 65 appearances.

If Lowell comes to Denver, Garrett Atkins would likely move to first base, although there are other possibilities such as accelerating the arrival of 25-year-old Joe Koshansky, who has led the organization in homers the last two seasons and is projected to play first base at Triple-A Colorado Springs this year.

The Rockies said this winter that they were open to dealing Helton and they had discussions with the Los Angeles Angels at the winter meetings but those talks didn’t go far.

After averaging 35 homers and 117 RBIs over the previous seven seasons, Helton’s numbers dipped in 2005, when he hit .320 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs while he was playing with a bad back. He also made his first career trip to the disabled list with a strained calf.

An intestinal infection sent him to the DL again last May and he never regained his strength, weight or power stroke upon his return, finishing with just 15 homers, a .302 batting average and 81 RBIs.

Helton’s agent, Mike Moye, didn’t return phone calls from The AP.

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