Rockies get flexibility, Helton gets security

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Seeing a window to remain a top contender in the wide open NL West, the Rockies on Thursday made a trade with their own first baseman, giving him two additional years of security in exchange for an ability to defer $13.1 million beginning in 2011.
In what seems like a smart move for both sides, the Rockies will free up $8.4 million next year and get out from under the $4.6 million buyout of his 2012 club option. That was worth $23 million, so there was never any chance that it’d be picked up.
Helton, in return, gets a two-year, $9.9 million deal covering 2012 and 2013. If he played at a high level, maybe he could have done as well as a free agent after 2011. However, he would have been 38, and given his back woes, taking the money now seemed like a smart idea. After all, he easily could have received the Jermaine Dye-Jim Edmonds-Carlos Delgado treatment. Now he’s signed through age 40 and in great position to finish his career with the Rockies.
Helton’s massive nine-year, $141.5 million contract has long been a problem for the Rockies. In 2006, he took up 40 percent of the club’s payroll all by himself. He was nearly traded to the Red Sox after that season. Colorado was willing to pick up $53.5 million of the $90.1 million he was still owed, only to see the deal fall apart over prospects.
Things have gotten far better since, though. Helton was a key part of the team’s run to the World Series in 2007, and while he missed much of 2008, he bounced back to hit .325/.416/.489 in 151 games last year. He probably still isn’t worth the $16.6 million he’ll be paid this season, but since the Rockies have shed the rest of their bad contracts, he’s no longer holding the team back at all.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.