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Wednesday, April 4
Helton signs nine-year extension

TUCSON, Ariz. – As a low-pitched rumble built outside the small conference room, Larry Walker couldn't help himself.

"Here comes your jet," Walker said.

Todd Helton just smiled, looked down and shook his head. He wasn't in a position to argue.

It is hard to believe some players in baseball are worth the money teams are paying them. But Todd Helton is the only star the Rockies' farm system developed, and he is a legitimate offensive player. He not only had a great year in Coors Field in 2000, but he also put up astronomical numbers on the road.

  • Soup's complete analysis
  • Helton, 27, became one of baseball's highest-paid players Thursday after signing the fourth-largest contract in sports history -- a nine-year, $141.5 million contract extension with the Colorado Rockies.

    The contact means Helton will receive nearly $151.5 million over the next 11 years. His current four-year deal calls for him to make $4.95 million this season and $5 million in 2002.

    "This contract lets me go out and play and statistically not worry about what happens," Helton said. "I can go out and be a team player because basically I'm locked in for the next 11 years. The feeling that gives me is wonderful. Just to be in the big leagues for 11 years is something I thought would never even happen."

    The Rockies approached Helton about a contract extension last April, and focused on negotiations this winter after Colorado signed free-agent left-handers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle to long-term deals.

    "It's a case where we've had a plan all along of locking up our key players and adding to the talent of this club and developing character and ability," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "We know Todd's got great preparation and pays attention to details. He's certainly not going to become a different player with this contract. "

    Under terms of the extension, Helton will receive $10.6 million in 2003, $11.6 million in '04, $12.6 million in '05, $16.6 million from '06-'10 and $19.1 in '11. The Rockies have an option pay Helton $23 million in 2012 or execute a $4.6 million buyout.

    Biggest baseball contracts
    Player Years Total
    A. Rodriguez 2001-10 $252M
    Derek Jeter 2001-10 $189M
    M. Ramirez 2001-08 $160M
    Todd Helton 2001-11 $141.5M
    M. Hampton 2001-08 $121M
    Ken Griffey 2000-08 $116.5M
    Kevin Brown 1999-05 $105M
    Mike Piazza 1999-05 $91M
    C. Jones 2001-06 $90M
    M. Mussina 2001-06 $88.5M
    B. Williams 1999-05 $87.5M
    Jeff Bagwell 2002-06 $85M
    S. Green 2000-05 $84M
    Mo Vaughn 1999-04 $80M

    "This contract basically lets me play my whole career in one place," he said. "To me, that's wonderful and it doesn't happen that often, so that's very exciting."

    Helton, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2003 season, also can opt out of the contract at the end of 2007 but said, "I don't see myself playing anywhere else or wanting to play anywhere else. I guess it's a safety valve."

    The reigning NL batting champion, Helton flirted with the .400 mark last season before finishing at .372 with 42 home runs and 147 RBIs. He also was named the Associated Press Major League Player of the Year.

    "He deserves everything he's getting," Walker said. "He's at the top of his class in the league as far as the best players. He's just going to keep getting better and better. That's going to be tough to do, because he's pretty good right now."

    Helton's batting average and run production have increased in each of his first three full seasons and he will hit fourth in a lineup loaded with steady hitter this year.

    Just don't ask him to make predictions on what his numbers will look like now that he is baseball's latest lottery winner.

    "If I go out and try to do what I did last year, I'm in trouble," he said. "I can't put statistical goals on myself."

    In total dollars, Helton's contract extension trails only Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez ($252 million over 10 years), New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($189 million over 10 years) and Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez ($160 million over eight years).

    The average annual value of the deal is $15,722,222, the seventh-highest in baseball, trailing Rodriguez ($25.2 million), Ramirez ($20 million), Jeter ($18.9 million), Sammy Sosa ($18 million), Jeff Bagwell ($17 million) and Carlos Delgado ($17 million).

    "There's no denying that's a lot of money," Helton said. "With that comes responsibility. I'm not talking on the field because if you put that kind of pressure on yourself, you're really not going to be able to go out and play the way you're supposed to play. It comes off the field. It comes in the offseason preparing yourself and making sure everybody else is prepared."

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