Target: Helton

Helton Should Be Mets' Top Priority

From now until Opening Day 2005, Mets' fans will be reading dozens of articles on how the Mets can improve their sub-.500 showing the past three seasons.<br> <br> Based on hundreds of converstations with fans, writers and front-office members of the New York Mets, I'm pretty sure that Todd Helton is the key to the Mets' success for 2005 and beyond. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

"In a series of articles exclusive to Nyfansonly.com.com, Mets Inside Pitch writer Mark Healey, who has covered the Mets' minor league system since 2001, shares his thoughts on what could be the makeup of the 2005 New York Mets."

Need: Offensive balance and consistent production.

The Mets have not had a true all-around first baseman and No. 3 hitter since John Olerud was allowed to leave via free agency after the 1999 season. Though the team made it to the WS without him in 2000, his steady presence at the plate and on the field has been sorely missed.

Though he has a nice finish to his season with the Yankees, Olerud is clearly not the player he used to be.

So a suitable replacement is needed, and the aging Tino Martinez just isn't it.

Though it seems that way, it wasn't that long ago that the Mets had a powerhouse type of offense.

In 1999, the lineup of Rickey Henderson (.315 avg, .423 OBP), Edgardo Alfonzo (.304 avg, .385 OBP, 27 HRs, 108 RBIs), Olerud (.298 avg, .427 OBP, 96 RBIs), Mike Piazza (.303 avg, 40 HRs, 124 RBIs) and Robin Ventura (32 HRs, 120 RBIs) represented the best offense the Mets have ever had. And that includes the Mex, Kid and Straw years.

Basically, the theory is this; Adding a player like Todd Helton, whose huge contract alone (makes him tradeable from increasingly cost conscious Colorado, a no-brainer.

Colorado is in the middle of a huge rebuilding project, stating publicly a need for payroll flexibilty.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, Helton is the "anchor" of the rebuild, but with his 12.5 million contract (9 years/$141.5M) taking up a large amount of the 44 million dollar committed budget for '05 and a lot more beyond, a trade to a big market team isn't out of the question.

RMN is also reporting that the Rockies will be looking for "bullpen help, protection in center field and a veteran middle infielder to provide support for rookie shortstop Clint Barmes."

He consistently hits .300, 30 HRs, drives in 100 plus runs, walks 100 times and has made double digit errors only once in his career.

He's hardly a Coors-created monster like Jeffery Hammonds, as his road numbers for his career are still All-Star caliber.

Splits

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

Home

559

2009

510

752

170

16

151

500

345

227

.374

.465

.700

1.165

Away

537

1903

295

565

141

6

95

312

289

291

.297

.391

.527

.918



This is the kind of hitter you can build an entire lineup around, and can help an up-and comer like David Wright, as well as an aging All Star like Piazza that needs help carrying the heavy load that is the Mets' offense.

However, the price is steep.

2005: $12.6M
2006: $16.6M
2007: $16.6M
2008: $16.6M
2009: $16.6M
2010: $16.6M
2011: $19.1M
2012: Team option $23.0M or $4.6M buyout

While taking on that kind of contract seems insane for the budget-concious Mets, by trading a prospect or two (as far as this reporter is concerned, if Kazmir could be dealt, any current minor leaguer should be equally available for an All-Star player) and a possible re-structuring (like A-Rod worked out the Yankees), he's a bargian, as he helps fill out the rest of the lineup.

Despite his defensive woes, Kaz Matsui figures to improve on his solid offensive numbers in his rookie year in the USA, and Jose Reyes, anyone who has seen him play knows what he's capable of when healthy.

Mike Cameron is another enigma, capable of solid offensive output, and will be relieved of the pressure of having to hit in the middle of the order.

Assuming that Richard Hidalgo is bought out and allowed to leave via free-agency (probable), Mets may choose to use a Victor Diaz/Eric Valent/Craig Brazell configuration in RF, which leaves Cliff Floyd, who may not be back.

If Floyd stays, the Mets 2004 Opening Day lineup would look like this:

2B Matsui
SS Reyes
1B Helton
C Piazza
LF Floyd
3B Wright
RF Diaz
CF Cameron

If healthy, a more improved lineup from this year's, and with three regulars making the minimum, opens up money for bullpen help and rotation, even with Helton's contract.

He's also a far better option than Carlos Delgado, whose skills are eroding and temperament and attitude are ill-suited for the Big Apple.



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