When the Philadelphia Phillies elected not to trade starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, they did so under the belief that they could offer him a qualifying offer after the season, which would either mean the Phillies would retain him for the 2017 season or they would get a compensatory draft pick if he left in free-agency.
While the Phillies extending Hellickson a qualifying offer, which Buster Olney of ESPN has reported will be worth near $16.7 million, seems like a near lock barring an extension, one league executive told Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball that he doesn't believe the Phillies should make the offer:
In a note in this space last week it was suggested that free agent to be pitcher Jeremy Hellickson could get the $17-million qualifying offer. But one rival suggested they’d be “nuts’ to try it, and that Hellickson would surely take it if offered. Hellickson had a nice year and the supply/demand issue will play in his favor, but after receiving what they deemed to be so-so or worse trade offers at the deadline for Hellickson, who made $7.8 million this year, they may view the choice as a “calculated gamble” they may not want to take.
There's a few things about the "rival's" take that should also be taken into account. First of all, she/he's a rival, so her/his team may have interest in signing Hellickson, and if they the 29-year-old hits free-agency without a qualifying offer attached to him, he's a much more intriguing arm to sign. Secondly, the Phillies would probably be a better team with Hellickson in the fold in 2017, not only because he can eat innings but also because his veteran presence would be positive in an otherwise young rotation. If the Phillies extend a qualifying offer to Hellickson and end up overpaying him for a season, so be it, they are a big market team with very little money on the books in 2017.
The easiest way for the Phillies to avoid having to take the risk of offering the qualifying offer would be to sign him to an extension prior to free-agency. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported over the weekend that the Phillies and Hellickson both do have some interest in an extension, but seemed to suggest that it wouldn't make sense for Hellickson not to test free-agency in what is expected to be a weak market.
Certainly, the Phillies will discuss an extension with Hellickson prior to having to extend a qualifying offer. But if nothing gets done prior to free-agency, they likely will have to attach a qualifying offer to the veteran righty to avoid potentially losing him for nothing in free-agency. If he accepts the qualifying offer, perhaps the Phillies could attempt to extend Hellickson on top of the 2017 money he would be guaranteed.
Hellickson, 29, was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks this past off-season and served as the Phillies Opening Day starter in 2016. In 185.2 innings in 2016, Hellickson is 12-10 with a 3.78 ERA. According to Fangraphs, Hellickson has posted a 4.03 FIP, a 4.05 xFIP and a 3.1 WAR in 2016, all of which are the best numbers that Hellickson has posted in a full big league season.