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.

Braves sign David Hernandez

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Bill Whitehead of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Braves have signed reliever David Hernandez to a minor league contract on Sunday. He’ll report to spring training as a non-roster invitee.

Hernandez, who turns 32 years old in May, signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February. He requested and was granted his release on Friday when he learned he wasn’t making the team’s 25-man roster to open the season.

Hernandez pitched for the Phillies last year. He compiled a 3.84 ERA with an 80/32 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.

Dave Roberts: It “doesn’t make sense” for Scott Kazmir to start year in Dodgers’ rotation

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Scott Kazmir won’t begin the regular season in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Manager Dave Roberts said after Kazmir’s Cactus League outing on Sunday that it “doesn’t make sense” for the ailing Kazmir to break camp in the rotation, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. The lefty will instead rehab some more and join the rotation at a later time.

Kazmir has been battling a hip issue which has caused his mechanics to suffer. He was clocked in the low 80’s 10 days ago and wasn’t much better on Sunday afternoon.

Last season with the Dodgers, Kazmir posted a 4.56 ERA with a 134/52 K/BB ratio in 136 1/3 innings, his worst numbers since returning to the majors in 2013.