Will Jeremy Hellickson take his chances in the open market, or play it safe with the Phillies? The market is thin, but is he worth the draft pick to teams?
Without the qualifying offer, Phillies free agent SP Jeremy Hellickson would be a great addition for teams like the Tigers, Orioles, or the Dodgers. These teams are in desperate need of innings from the rotation. Still, it’s doubtful that any of them (especially the Dodgers) would be willing to give up their first-round pick for a middle of the rotation guy like Hellickson. If not for the weakness of this year’s free agent class, he wouldn’t have even received a qualifying offer.
The pitching market is very thin this year. The 36-year-old, injury prone Rich Hill (2.12 ERA over 110.1 IP) is the top pitcher in free agency. Jason Hammel and Ivan Nova are the only other pitchers that compares to Hellickson in this year’s FA class. The remaining players available are injury prone, old, or just can’t perform at a high level anymore.
“He has a lot of components that tell you why he’s successful — his command, changeup, breaking ball — and that’s creating a lot of interest for a lot of teams. And in a free-agent marketplace short on starting pitching — it’s very advantageous for him.” – Agent Scott Boras
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Jim Salisbury at CSNPhilly reported that Hellickson is leaning towards rejecting the qualifying offer. Of course, this came by way of his agent, the notorious Scott Boras. Like any good agent, Boras told the media that many teams are interested in Hellickson. Naturally, he expects his client to test the open market.
Despite his agent’s advice, Hellickson would be wise to look back on players similar to himself. Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza both saw the qualifying offer destroy their market value. In fact, they both settled for undervalued contracts with the Milwaukee Brewers. Something Hellickson surely hopes to avoid.
At this moment, relief pitchers hold more value than ever before. Both the Cubs and Indians traded top prospects from their farm system in exchange for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, respectively. Now Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon are all free agents this offseason.
If teams are going to give up draft picks to improve their pitching, it’ll be for these guys, not Hellickson. If he does accept the qualifying offer and has another good season, “Helly” will be set up much better for next year’s offseason. He would be more established in an equally weak free agent class in 2018, and more likely to get the payday he’s hoping for.
To play it safe, Hellickson should stick with the Phils for 2017.