Todd Helton

Todd Helton to retire after 17 seasons with Rockies

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Most figured the end was coming for Todd Helton. The 40-year-old first baseman confirmed it to the Denver Post’s Troy Renck on Saturday, announcing his retirement at season’s end.

Helton said he felt going into 2013 that this would be his last year, though he has had second thoughts from time to time.

“During the season I definitely wavered. It usually wasn’t from having a great game. I just enjoyed the competition, and I felt like I had bat speed. That’s what I will miss. The competition. I don’t know how I will replace that yet. There were days, I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this one year,’ ” Helton told the Denver Post “Then ultimately, it’s the travel, being away from the family. It is just time.”

Helton, who has dealt with back problems for a half-dozen years, has managed to stay relatively healthy in 2013, but the production hasn’t come back. He’s currently hitting .244 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 112 games.

At .317/.415/.539, Helton has the slash line of a Hall of Famer, and he played like one in his prime years, even after accounting for the Coors Field effect. Still, he probably wasn’t quite good enough for long enough to get into Cooperstown. Famously the backup quarterback Peyton Manning at Tennessee, he didn’t establish himself in the majors until age 24, and back problems led to diminished power numbers from age 31 onward. It won’t help his case that his high finish in the MVP balloting was fifth and that he went to a mere five All-Star Games.

On the other hand, there’s a whole lot to be said for ranking 20th all-time in OPS. He’s also 16th in doubles with 585. He won a batting title in 2000 and finished in the top five in average seven times. He also finished in the top five in OBP eight times and in slugging four times. He topped 40 homers twice, with a high of 49, and drove in 147 and 146 runs in back-to-back years. He won three Gold Gloves for his play at first base. WAR says he was the NL’s best player in 2000, which is when he finished fifth in the MVP balloting.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.