If you hadn't already heard from the "extend Jeremy Hellickson" crowd, they made sure their voices were heard Saturday evening after the 29-year-old threw a complete-game shutout in an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins.
So is it possible the Philadelphia Phillies lock up their Opening Day starter to a long-term extension this off-season? Well, it's complicated.
When the Phillies elected not to trade a red-hot Hellickson prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, they did so under the belief that if they gave Hellickson a qualifying offer this off-season, they could get a higher return if he declined it and signed elsewhere, which would give them a compensatory round pick as opposed to a fringe prospect(s).
That plan is unlikely to change. Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball recently noted that the team would be 'OK' with Hellickson accepting the offer. Still, from a long-term sense, the value of Hellickson turning into a compensatory round pick in next year's MLB Draft would be of more value to the team
If Hellickson accepts the qualifying offer, which ESPN's Buster Olney reported in July is expected to valued around $16.7 million, then the idea of the Phillies working out a long-term deal becomes at least possible.
Hellickson accepting a qualifying offer only guarantees the Phillies one season of Hellickson. It's entirely possible that the team would gladly bring back Hellickson for 2017, knowing that the possibility of trading him in the summer or offering him a qualifying offer again next winter exists. At the very least, they would get another 170-190 innings out of Hellickson in 2017, which could be of value with Aaron Nola likely to be on an innings limit in a very young rotation.
If both sides attempted to try to sign an extension, negotiations would be interesting. On the open market, Hellickson would likely get $10-$12 million per season over a three year deal. If he accepted the qualifying offer, the Phillies could try to negotiate him down off the $16.7 million salary he would be guaranteed in 2017, but there's little reason to think Hellickson's camp would be interested in doing that. He's only going to be 30 next year, so if moving off the qualifying offer salary is something that limits the Phillies interest in signing a long-term deal, there's no reason to think Hellickson's financial value will be greatly decreased in a year's time.
The Phillies aren't financially strapped, though. If they really are interested in retaining Hellickson over the long-run, they could bite the bullet, overpay him in year one and then give him another two years around $10 million per season. So a three-year deal could come in around $37 million.
There's a few other things to keep in mind.
The first is that the post-2018 free-agent class -- which features Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw, among others -- is expected to be the greatest class in the history of the league. A three-year extension of Hellickson would mean he would be locked up through the 2019 season, potentially taking away in the neighborhood of $10 million away from being able to chase a superstar talent after 2018.
The second thing worth noting is that the MLB's current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in December. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted earlier this month that the league would like to get a new deal done by November, which would make sense since free-agency normally starts in early November. From the Phillies perspective, it would be nice to know if qualifying offers will still be in the new collective bargaining agreement, because it will impact how the Phillies handle Hellickson's free-agency.
- I wouldn't be surprised to see the Phillies only have one true first baseman -- Tommy Joseph -- on their Opening Day roster next year. This would allow them to keep three catchers at some point in the year, including a veteran that's on the team more to play a mentoring role, like A.J. Ellis. If the team trades Cameron Rupp, that's a different story, but Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that the team wants to have a veteran catcher in 2017, which makes sense since both Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro could spend large chunks of the season with the team for the first time.
- Frustration over Odubel Herrera's second half struggles are understandable, though some of the conclusions that people have come to because of them aren't. Perhaps Herrera is just a starter, or is more valuable to the team as a trade piece. But he's proven more than Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn and Nick Williams have at the Major League level combined, so the idea that he should be thrown to the side while any of the aforementioned three be locked into starting in 2017 is strange.
- The Phillies seem to be likely to add a few veteran hitters this off-season. While having better players on the team is ideal, I think having more "professional hitters," as Pete Mackanin put it, would also rub off on guys like Maikel Franco and Herrera. So if the Phillies miss out on some of their targets in free-agency, I wonder if someone like Nick Markakis, who the team was connected to this past summer, would be of interest. Markakis is set to make $10.5 million in each of the next two years, but the Phillies aren't financially strapped, he falls into the "professional hitter" category and if the Phillies had three better outfielders than him at some point in the next two years, it wouldn't be that big of a deal for him to be a fourth outfielder. Not to mention, president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak were with Markakis in Baltimore.