Helton not on list of Rockies players available for deal

Orioles have inquired about Wilson, but he's on `back burner,' source says

June 18, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

For most of the Colorado Rockies, last night was their first visit to Camden Yards in the franchise's 13-season history.

For some individual Rockies players, though, the three-game series here could have more significance - as a potential pennant-race audition.

The Rockies, baseball's worst team, will be sellers this summer, and they have several players attracting interest from teams, including the Orioles.

But don't start saving for that Todd Helton No. 17 Orioles jersey.

Helton's not available. Not to the Orioles, not to anyone.

"Todd Helton is not being traded, Todd is the foundation of our franchise," said general manager Dan O'Dowd. "At some point in time, if he came to me personally and said, `I'd like to move on to a contender,' I would absolutely respect that if the right deal were there to be made. But I don't anticipate that happening at all."

Even if Helton were available, the Orioles have said privately that they wouldn't want to take on Helton's monstrous contract, which runs through 2011 and has more than $100 million remaining.

More attainable options are center fielder Preston Wilson and a trio of Rockies pitchers: last night's starter Jason Jennings, left-hander Joe Kennedy and right-hander Shawn Chacon, who is on the disabled list.

The Orioles have spoken to the Rockies about Wilson, but no specific names have been discussed, several sources confirmed. One source said the Orioles had only limited interest in Wilson, 30, calling him a "back burner" option.

Wilson, a pending free agent still owed about $8 million this year, was batting .274 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs heading into last night. Normally a center fielder, he has said he would move to a corner position for the right team.

Most important for Wilson now is to show potential suitors that his bothersome left knee, which cost him much of last season, is healthy again. He said he's not concerned about who wants to trade for him.

"After what I went through last year, not playing and being hurt, I'm just happy being out there and doing the things I can do," Wilson said.

Although the Rockies have the worst ERA in the National League, there is also interest in all three of their potentially available starters because of their age and relative experience. And also because pitching is so thin throughout the majors.

The Orioles are believed to be most interested in Jennings, the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year who was 3-7 with a 5.94 ERA heading into last night. Considered a middle-of-the-rotation starter, the right hander, 26, signed a two-year $7 million deal with Colorado in the offseason.

He's relatively cheap and durable but isn't the top-of-the-rotation pitcher the Orioles covet. Besides, the cost-conscious Rockies would be most interested in one of the Orioles' major league-ready young pitchers such as Hayden Penn or Chris Ray - a hefty price. But the Rockies feel they can afford to take their time and wait for the right deal.

"We're not going to get tied into the hype and speculation that we're just out peddling players," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We are not picking up the phone calling a lot of people, people are calling us."

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