Earlier this week, we examined what a possible Jeremy Hellickson with the Philadelphia Phillies extension would look like. At that time, it appeared that an extension would have to come after Hellickson accepted a qualifying offer. It appears the Phillies may have another plan to retain their Opening Day starter.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Phillies would like to lock Hellickson up before Hellickson can become a free-agent:
The Phillies would like to get Hellickson signed before he hits free agency. That’s one of the reasons they didn’t trade him at the non-waiver deadline. Hellickson (12-9, 3.57 ERA, 1.142 WHIP in 181⅓ innings) is also showing signs he’d like to stay in Philadelphia, but with a dearth of starting pitching in free agency, Hellickson may want to see what’s out there before committing quickly.
Even if the Phillies hope to lock Hellickson up before free-agency, they likely will have to extend a qualifying offer to him, which could be worth $16.7 million, knowing that they can't allow him to walk away in free-agency without getting any compensation. That decision has to come within five days of the World Series concluding.
From Hellickson's perspective, it may be wise to accepted the qualifying offer. At most on the open market he would get $13 or $14 million a year (which he probably won't), but by accepting the qualifying offer he would get the aforementioned rate of $16.7 million. That would lock him into that rate for the first year, and he could still negotiate an extension on top of that making the $11-$13 million per year rate that he would have otherwise gotten on the open market. Even if he doesn't get an extension done on top of the qualifying offer, he's only going to be 30 at this time next year, so it's not as though his value on the open market would drastically drop.
His agent is Scott Boras, so without the qualifying offer being part of plans for an extension, Hellickson seems like a near lock to test free-agency. The Phillies do have a nearly unlimited amount of money to work with in the short term, but without the qualifying offer, they would seemingly have to offer Hellickson $15 million per season to have him pass on testing on free-agency (due to the weak starting pitching market), and just because they can overpay now doesn't make it the right move.
The Phillies interest in retaining Hellickson makes sense. Aaron Nola is likely to be on an innings limit in 2017. Vince Velasquez has a questionable at best health history. And the rest of the rotation is young. I've suggested that the team attempt to also retain Charlie Morton, but with how young the rotation is, they will need at least two veteran innings eaters like Hellickson and Morton.