Often overlooked and underappreciated, Todd Helton(notes) has been the face of the Colorado Rockies for nearly 14 years. That's quite an accomplishment of consistency and longevity in this day and age.
Though the potential Hall of Famer has no intentions on leaving the game behind anytime soon, his days occupying that role have officially reached their end.
According to reports that made the rounds on Monday evening, the Rockies have locked up their All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki(notes) through the 2020 season, making him the new face of the franchise.
The new deal, which is expected to be officially announced later Tuesday, is essentially a six-year extension of his current contract that runs through 2014, with $119 million worth of new money added on. (As part of the deal, the Rockies are picking up Tulowitzki's $15 million option in 2014.)
That's a hefty price to pay and a big commitment to make for an organization not willing to go toe-to-toe with free-spending teams at the top of the payroll pyramid. Especially when the player getting paid has made multiple trips to the DL over the past three seasons.
But to this Rockies fan, the rewards that go along with a healthy Tulo far outweigh the risks involved. This contract is a well-timed and undeniable message to a fanbase on edge that owners Dick and Charlie Monfort are willing and able to expand the payroll when they see fit. Many had questioned that willingness when GM Dan O'Dowd moved Matt Holliday(notes) before the 2009 season in a deal that ended up netting them a blossoming superstar in Carlos Gonzalez(notes) and a solid closer in Huston Street(notes). Now, not only have they locked Tulo up, but they've also secured the services of pitcher Jorge De La Rosa(notes) with a three-year, $30 million deal that is also expected to be announced Tuesday.
Of course, when you throw so many years and so much money at a player a few years before really you have to, the move is going to attract a lot of criticism.
Here's a sampling, leading with our own Jeff Passan:
Passan, Y! Sports: It's ill-conceived and unconscionable for a Rockies team that knows what long-term, big-money contracts do to franchises with middling budgets: cripple them. And even if Tulowitzki is the anti-Mike Hampton(notes), and even if he can stay healthy like Todd Helton couldn't, and even if he is the do-everything, all-world, good-guy shortstop, heir to Derek Jeter(notes), he still leaves the Rockies in a compromised position: with limited money to spend on the other pieces and parts that would comprise an annual contender.
Rob Neyer, ESPN: The Rockies are assuming an enormous amount of risk here. As long as Tulowitzki's healthy, he'll probably be worth his salary for most of the next decade. If he's playing well and the Rockies weren't foolish enough to give him a strong no-trade clause, they can always trade him if it's time to rebuild. If he's not playing well, though? As Passan notes, the Rockies were exceptionally fortunate to reach the playoffs while carrying Todd Helton's salary. They might not be so fortunate again.
Andrew T. Fisher, Purple Row: The obvious reminder of the risk is just across the diamond, scooping Tulo's throws from the dirt. It remains to be seen whether the contract will be worth it, but if you were to construct the perfect player to give a ten year deal to, it would be a young power hitting shortstop with fantastic defense and an unnatural drive to compete. Moreover, at least one of Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez would be extended past 2014 anyway, and Tulowitzki was the easy choice of the three. The Rockies wanted him here for years after 2014, and now they do.
Craig Calcaterra, HardballTalk: Tulowitzki is a great talent. If I were starting a team now he'd be on the short list of players who might be my first pick. He's obviously loved in Colorado. But a six year extension that starts in 2015? Really? What was motivating the Rockies to extend a guy who was under team control through 2014 already? Was the prospect of Todd Helton's deal finally falling off the books in 2013 too scary to contemplate?
O'Dowd and the rest of the Rockies brass will explain their thinking to the media later Tuesday. Their reasoning will likely center around ensuring that a top-of-the-game talent stays in their market for the next 10 years to come.