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Report: Phillies nearly traded Hellickson to the Marlins last year

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Through a tangled web of events, a proposed Hellickson-to-Miami deal never went through. But it could have.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting a little more insight now as to why the Phillies did not trade Jeremy Hellickson at the trade deadline last year.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Phillies would have dealt the veteran right-hander to the Miami Marlins in exchange for first base prospect Josh Naylor if the Marlins hadn’t decided to re-work a trade with the San Diego Padres that involved some shady dealing by Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

Confused? Understandable. Here’s what went down, according to Rosenthal.

The Marlins and Padres completed a trade before last year’s trade deadline that sent Padres starters Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea and Tayron Guerrero to the Marlins in exchange for pitching prospect Luis Castillo, right-handed starter Jarred Cosart, reliever Carter Capps and first-base prospect Josh Naylor.

However, shortly after Rea’s first start with Miami, he blew out his elbow. Preller, who was suspended by Major League Baseball for neglecting to disclose injury concerns concerning starter Drew Pomeranz with the Boston Red Sox in a separate trade, allegedly engaged in a similar maneuver with San Diego regarding Rea. According to Rosenthal, the Marlins wanted to undo the entire trade as a result...

The Marlins, however, were under the impression that the commissioner’s office preferred them to seek a remedy from the Padres, sources said. That, ultimately, was the path the Marlins chose, sending Rea back to the Padres for pitching prospect Luis Castillo, who also was in the original deal...

... The Marlins’ Plan B, if they had nixed the deal, was to trade Naylor to the Phillies for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and market Castillo for a controllable starter before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline, sources said. The Phillies, sources said, had agreed on Hellickson-for-Naylor, only to lose out when the Marlins kept their deal with the Padres mostly intact, enabling Naylor to remain with San Diego.

It should be made clear here that Hellickson was never the Marlins’ No. 1 target. The deal with the Phils only would have occurred had they nixed their entire deal with San Diego. Ultimately, the team decided to re-work the deal with Preller and the Padres, freezing out the Phillies.

Interestingly, the Marlins still had about three hours before the trade deadline to make a deal with the Phils, but both clubs appeared to acknowledge that wouldn’t be possible. More from Rosenthal...

The Rea-for-Castillo exchange was announced approximately three hours before the non-waiver deadline.

By that time, it was too late for the Marlins to flip Castillo for a controllable starter.

It also was too late for the Phillies to move Hellickson; they had told clubs they were heading in another direction and could not resuscitate those talks, sources said.

It’s clear the Phillies were trying to trade Hellickson at the deadline and apparently had the framework of a deal in place with the Marlins. But it’s also clear Hellickson was the Marlins’ second choice, and a deal between the two teams was never actually agreed to.

The Phils ended up receiving nothing in return for Hellickson this off-season after he accepted their qualifying offer. And while the addition of Naylor to the organization would probably have been better than nothing, it’s fair to wonder how valuable a prospect he would have been.

MLB.com ranked Naylor as the No. 5 first base prospect in all of baseball before the 2016 season and was the team’s No. 2 prospect in a weak farm system last year according to Baseball Prospectus, but neither MLB.com nor ESPN’s Keith Law have him as a top 10 prospect at that position this year.

The Phillies have long liked Naylor and considered drafting him with their first round pick in the 2015 MLB draft (he went No. 12 overall), but he is strictly a first base/DH type who provides a lot of power but a lot of swing and miss as well.

The Phils currently have Tommy Joseph at first base on the big league club, with Rhys Hoskins, who is a better prospect than Naylor, getting ready to make his mark in AAA. Naylor batted .264/.302/.407 in low and high-A ball last year as a 19-year-old, with 12 home runs and 29 doubles in 514 plate appearances.

Obviously, having Hellickson back for at least part of 2017 isn’t a bad thing. He fronts a rotation with a few question marks (Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez) and could still be traded this summer now that a qualifying offer cannot be attached to his impending free agency.

It’s just one of the many side effects of Preller’s shady dealings last summer.