OK, Jeremy Hellickson. Your move.
On Monday, the Phillies announced they have extended a free agent qualifying offer to right-handed starter Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson now has seven days to either accept the QO and pitch for the Phils in 2017 at $17.2 million, or decline the QO and test free agency.
If Hellickson is signed by another team, they will receive compensation in the form of a first-round pick from whatever team signs him to a free agent contract. If the team that signs Hellickson has a first-round pick that is Top-10 protected, the Phils will receive a compensatory pick that will actually be quite valuable, somewhere between 25-30 in next June’s draft.
Hellickson had an outstanding year for the Phillies. He was acquired last winter via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was one of the team’s most dependable arms. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and a 3.98 FIP. He struck out 7.33 per nine innings and walked 2.14 per nine in 189.0 innings pitched.
His 3.71 ERA was the lowest it had been since he put up a 3.10 ERA in 2012 for Tampa, while the 2.14 walk-rate was the lowest of his career.
Hellickson figures to be an attractive option in an extraordinarily weak free agent starting pitcher market. He’s probably the second-best pitcher available, following the 36-year-old Rich Hill, a left-hander bothered by blisters for much of the season. Hellickson is certainly the best free agent starter under the age of 30 (he’ll actually turn 30 next April).
However, giving up a first-round pick for the rights to sign Hellickson to a three or four-year deal might be a tough pill for many interested teams to swallow. However, Hellickson has repeatedly said he’d like to play in one place for a long time and would like to seek out that multi-year deal. And there is certainly no better market with which to do that than this one.
Of course, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement being worked out, it’s possible that Hellickson could decide to accept the Phils qualifying offer, wait it out for a year, and then re-enter free agency in a tougher free agent market, but without the QO pick attached to him.
No matter what happens, the Phillies will take it. They’d be happy to pay Hellickson $17.2 million to provide veteran leadership in the bullpen and then perhaps flip him at the trade deadline. Or, he refuses and signs somewhere else and the rebuilding Phils get a very valuable draft pick.
It’s a win-win for the Phils.