The Philadelphia Phillies need a pitcher like Jeremy Hellickson to lead the starting staff next season.
The Philadelphia Phillies likely want to keep Jeremy Hellickson. Whether the team will be able to remains questionable. However, the veteran starting pitcher will most likely be the person who decides if he comes back and if so, for how long. If Hellickson opts to leave, general manager Matt Klentak will likely ink, or obtain, a similar veteran presence to aid the ongoing development of his young starting staff.
The right-hander, who will turn 30 next April, will likely receive a one-year qualifying offer after this season ends. That price, as set by negotiated labor rules, will be around $17 million. Philadelphia would receive a supplemental draft pick next June if he rejects that deal.
His decision, in that instance, would be a gamble. If Hellickson opts to stay in Philadelphia, he would hope to remain healthy and be as productive as he’s been this year. If he signs a longer term contract elsewhere, he’ll be choosing financial security over the opportunity to lead this developing staff. Of course, every player wants to win a championship. So, accepting an offer from a legitimate contender would make sense.
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Fans may recall that Kevin Millwood tossed a no-no at Veterans Stadium in April 2003, after being obtained from the Atlanta Braves for catching prospect Johnny Estrada in December 2002. What does that have to do with Hellickson? Well, Millwood unexpectedly chose to accept a one-year, $11 million offer from then-general manager Ed Wade after the 2003 season ended. The veteran right-hander entered the 2004 season as the 29-year-old head of a staff that included Eric Milton (28) and a trio of younger arms in Brett Myers (23), Vicente Padilla (26) and Randy Wolf (27).
Hellickson, the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, has posted his best set of seasonal statistics since that magical season. His 1.14 WHIP underscores the solid strike zone control he’s maintained since the spring. He needs two more starts and eight more innings pitched to set career highs in those categories. So, he’s proven both durable and effective.
Hellickson’s 3.1 WAR score is only topped by Odubel Herrera‘s 3.8 mark. That all-encompassing statistical reference point helps to emphasize ‘Hellboy’s’ importance on Pete Mackanin‘s squad. A variety of veteran starting pitching options will be available on the free agent market, or via trades, this winter. But, one specific man might become Hellickson’s successor instead.
Klentak’s choice to trade for two veteran starting pitchers in the offseason proved wise. Charlie Morton, who was obtained from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December, tore his left hamstring last April. He only started four games before that injury required surgery, which put him on the disabled list for the season.
‘Ground Chuck’ could be a nice fit next season. He turns 33 on November 12, and unlike Hellickson, isn’t coming off a productive year. So, he might tell his agent to accept the mutual $9.5 million option if Philadelphia exercises it. That amount, which is $1.5 million more than Morton’s current salary, would easily fit into Philadelphia’s 2017 rebuild budget.
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So, Hellickson’s chance of staying in town seems slim. Morton’s retention is more likely and other arm options will be available.
With whatever decisions are made, Klentak will probably follow his pattern of balancing younger arms with older minds who know how to pitch.