Right-handed pitcher Jeremy Hellickson accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies for the upcoming 2017 season. After extending the qualifying offer, the Phillies front office probably hoped Hellickson would accept a longer, more lucrative deal from another team in order to receive a high draft pick as compensation. Instead, at age 29, Hellickson adds experience and stability to a Philadelphia rotation that projects to feature Aaron Nola (23), Jerad Eickhoff (26), Vince Velasquez (24), and Zach Eflin (22).
But, fans should consider the $17.2 million as an investment that could pay dividends come July. This Philadelphia roster is built to compete in 2019 – not 2017. If Hellickson pitches well, it’s likely the front office will use the righty to acquire valuable young talent prior to the mid-summer trade deadline. With a free agent market lacking proven starting pitchers, playoff contenders will be competing for back-end starters that could propel them toward a playoff berth. If Hellickson underperforms, the Phillies will simply let him walk in free agency at the end of 2017 without future financial obligations.
While Hellickson could have fetched tens of millions of dollars in a parallel baseball universe with fair rules in free agency, the Phillies’ qualifying offer actually decreased his value on the open market. With draft picks becoming increasingly valuable in an era dominated by advanced metrics, buyers were unlikely to pay a premium price for an injury-prone, inconsistent starter at the expense relinquishing a potential phenom.
If Hellickson had rejected the qualifying offer, the Phillies would have likely received a draft pick in the latter half of the first round, as well as a $2 million bonus allotment. Instead, Philadelphia fills out its rotation with a pitcher that went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 2016, but has shown flashes of brilliance in the past. Time will tell if the Phillies made a mistake by not trading the righty last July, but at the very least the organization has a short-term solution to a talent problem on its major league roster.
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com