Todd Helton has been the face of the Colorado Rockies since 1998, when in his first full season, he hit 25 home runs and had a .315 average.
Helton, who has spent his whole career in Colorado, has amassed 2,422 hits and 570 doubles while wearing the purple and black. His career average is .319 and he has always played stellar defense at first base as he has won three Gold Gloves. He holds most the franchise’s offensive records. Helton is the third-most senior active MLB player to have spent his entire career with one club, behind Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera with the Yankees.
The time has come for the veteran to hang up his cleats.
Helton has two hits in six games this season. He seems lost at the plate and has an average of just .095. He looks old, tired and out of shape. Heading into his 17th season, Helton just doesn’t look like the player he used to be. It is understandable that his production would drop off after that long of a career.
A lot of the blame falls on the Rockies. Colorado has never been prepared for Helton’s downfall. They have not drafted a first baseman to develop or ever went after a first baseman in free agency. The always counted on Helton and now it is beginning to hurt them.
There are players on the roster who can play first base, but none of them fit the mold of true corner infielder. Jordan Pacheco has spent some time playing first base but he lacks power at the plate. Michael Cuddyer has filled in there from time to time but he is much more of an outfielder. Tyler Colvin, who played there while Helton was out with injury last season, was sent to Colorado Springs after struggling in the spring.
Nolan Arenado is one of the top prospects in the organization but he is projected as a third baseman. A move to first may become an option for the Rockies.
Helton always performed at the plate and in the field, but it seemed as the Rockies never thought he was going to slide. His power numbers have been falling since 2005, which was the last season he hit more than 20 home runs. He has been hitting sixth in the lineup this season with powerful catcher Wilin Rosario hitting behind him. Time for the two of them to swap places in the lineup.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss has said he thinks Helton will produce at the plate. Helton, whose arrest for DUI in February shocked many fans, hit over .300 as recent as 2011 when he played 124 games. Colorado is lacking in the pitching department but the team has a strong foundation with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. It is good to have veterans mixed in with your young players, but those veterans need to contribute. Helton is not giving much.
Despite all the success Helton has had with the Rockies, age and injuries have caught up with the former Tennessee Volunteer.
Helton is playing the last year of his $145 million contract he was given in 2003. The Rockies remember the good times like hitting the walk-off homer against the Dodgers in 2007 or catching the final out of the 2007 NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Those days are long gone.
Helton has been an amazing player for the Rockies and he is on the fringe of being a Hall of Famer one day. But the time has come for the Rockies and Helton to make a mutual decision to move on and look to the future.