When the Phillies acquired Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton last offseason, the goal was for one or both of them to be successful enough so that the team could flip him at the trade deadline for a decent haul of prospects. They had tried this in previous years with Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Chad Billingsley, and A.J. Burnett.
While Morton is now on the 60-day disabled list with a torn hamstring, Hellickson has been having the best season of his career. He has better numbers across the board than his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign in 2011 with the Rays. Hellickson has been worth 1.9 fWAR so far this year, the best of his career.
In addition to a better WAR, Hellickson’s xFIP of 3.98 is the best of any year in his career, excluding his short stint in the majors in 2010. Also, his walk percentage of 5.5%, strikeout percentage of 19.9%, and WHIP of 1.152 are all better than his rookie season.
Hellickson has found this success with the help of his much-improved changeup, which August Fagerstorm of Fangraphs analyzed in-depth. Batters are whiffing far more at his change-up, making it one of the best changes in the game this year.
Despite all this success, Hellickson remained in a Phillies uniform after the August 1 trade deadline came and went. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the Phillies were asking for a team’s top-five prospect, which probably drove away some teams, even though the market was heavily inflated.
What also possibly put some teams off has been Hellickson’s continued struggles against lefties. He has a 5.01 FIP and allowed a .339 wOBA to lefties, compared to 3.57 FIP and .287 wOBA versus righties. Compared to his whole career, Hellickson has actually been worse against lefties, despite his improved changeup.
Hellickson has also been far more prone to the long ball, giving up a career-high 14.1% home runs per fly ball. Lefties have really gone yard on Hellickson, as he’s allowed 1.45 home runs per nine innings to them.
Without a deal at the deadline, Hellickson is set to become a free agent this year. Rumors indicate the Phillies will extend Hellickson a qualifying offer, knowing full well that as a Scott Boras client, Hellickson will most likely turn it down. The offer would be worth $16.7 million, but with the lack of starting pitching on the market this year, Hellickson could find a more lucrative offer on the market.
If Hellickson rejects this offer, the Phillies would receive a compensatory draft pick in between the first and second rounds, giving the Phillies an extra potential top-ten prospect in their system. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, this weighed heavily for the Phillies while discussing trades with other teams.
According to Baseball Reference’s WAR, Hellickson is the fourth-best player and second-best pitcher on the team. For the remainder of the season, Hellickson will continue to pitch for the team, and he will continue to provide quality outings as a member of the Phillies.