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Phillies rumors: the Jeremy Hellickson speculation begins

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Get ready for a whole lot of trade talk to swarm around Jeremy Hellickson.

MLB: Game 1-Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

And so it begins.

Yes, we’re still two and a half months away from the July 31 MLB Trade Deadline, but it’s never too early to start rumor-mongering and gossiping about the Philllies veterans who could soon be on their way to a contender or wannabe-contender, right?

Our first foray into the trade rumors for 2017 comes to us from The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who said the Phils are all ears when it comes to fielding calls from general managers regarding their veteran right-hander, Jeremy Hellickson.

Phillies personnel have made it known they'll listen on Hellickson in trade talks. Philadelphia re-signed Hellickson with the idea of using him to acquire more prospects before the trading deadline.

Hellickson has been one of the Phillies’ better starters this year, but he’s faltered of late. He’s 4-1 in 8 starts with a 3.71 ERA in 43.2 innings, but there may be urgency to move him now, as some of his peripherals could indicate a correction is on the way, if it hasn’t happened already.

Through his first five starts, Hellickson had a 1.80 ERA and had been one of the few starters pitching deep into games. Since the calendar flipped to May, it’s been a different story. In one game against Chicago and two against Washington, he’s put up a 7.90 ERA in 13.2 innings. The longest he has gone in any of his three May starts is five innings.

Hellickson has seen a steep drop in his strikeout percentage, down from 20% last year to 10% this year. But he’s still not walking anybody (4.4%) and opponents are still hitting a mere .237 against him. But given the rate of contact, his FIP of 5.62 indicates his ERA will continue to rise if he doesn’t start to strike more guys out.

And only three pitchers in baseball, Jordan Zimmermann, Dylan Bundy and Justin Verlander, have a lower ground ball percentage (32.2%) than Hellickson this year.

Last month, I suggested it may have been wise for the Phillies to consider offering Hellickson a contract extension. But given his recent struggles, the Phils would also be wise to listen to offers for their right-hander. Of course, it’s unlikely the team would get a stud prospect back, given he would be rotation depth rather than a top-of-the-rotation arm for a contender. He’s also a rental, so any team that trades for him would only get a couple months out of him.

Nevertheless, this is why they traded for him last year. The 30-year-old surprised everyone by signing the $17.2 million qualifying offer this past off-season, and he’s been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball since coming to Philadelphia, with a 3.71 ERA in 40 starts with the Phils.

One thing you can be sure of is that this isn’t the last time you’re going to see the phrase “MLB trade rumors” and the name “Jeremy Hellickson” in the same sentence this summer.