Jeremy Hellickson will be back to anchor the Phillies’ starting rotation in 2017. Hellickson accepted the $17.5 million qualifying offer the Phillies threw at him this past week, and for a guy who had made only $16 million combined throughout his career to this point, it was a hard offer to refuse.
Hellickson and the Met’s Neil Walker became the 4th and 5th players respectively to ever accept the qualifying offer from their teams instead of testing the free agency waters. Matt Weiters (Orioles), Colby Rasmus (Astros), and Brett Anderson (Dodgers) became the first three players to ever accept the qualifying offers in 2015. As the number rises each year, so does the amount of players willing to take that salary for a year over a multi-year deal for less annual salary with another team.
This might seem like a big money deal for the Phillies, as it is a nice hunk of cash. Paying this much for a guy who plays once every 5 days is mind boggling to many, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Jeremy Hellickson brings his reliable veteran arm back to the Phils for 2017, making him once again the elder statesmen of this rotation, for now. Hellickson will turn 30 shortly after opening day, and with the young crop of starters the Phillies have around him, he will once again be relied upon to eat some innings for the Phils, as they will have young arms who might be placed on some sort of innings limit for most of the year, thus taking a toll on the guys in the bullpen. Hellickson can be relied upon to give you those 6-7 inning outings and save the middle relief for when they’re needed a little earlier in games.
This past 2016 season for Hellickson wasn’t anything flashy, but it was exactly what you ask for out of an efficient major league starter. He kept his team in games and did what he had to do to put this team in position to win each time he was handed the ball. The righty racked up 189 innings for the Phils in which he had a record of 12-10 in 32 starts with an ERA of 3.71 and 154 strikeouts.
Now, for a guy with those stats, some of you might shriek at the amount of money he will make in 2017. With the $17.5 million he will have in his pocket after the season, he puts himself right at the tail end of the top 20 currently contracted starting pitchers in the game. Right above him sits Dodgers left Scott Kazmir, and right below him sits Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers. To compare stats, Kazmir and his 2017 contract north of $17.6 million went 10-6 in 2016 with a 4.56 ERA and 134 K’s in 136.1 IP for Los Angeles this past season. Sanchez, who will make about $16.8 million this year in Detroit, threw up a 7-13 record with a 5.87 ERA in 153.1 IP for the Tigers. He started 26 games and was even relegated to bullpen duties for 9 games in 2016. Let’s even take a look at guys who will make much more than Hellickson. Homer Bailey of the Reds, who has made 31 starts over the last 3 seasons combined, will pocket $19 million this season, and Cincy has to pray that he holds up the whole year. James Shields of the White Sox, who will be making $21 million this year, posted a 6-19 record in 33 starts between San Diego and Chicago this past season, registering a 5.85 ERA and giving up a league-leading 40 home runs.
Looking at the money that these teams have spent on players who aren’t near as reliable and proficient as Hellickson, I’d say we’ve got ourselves a bargain. Yeah, he’s making this money to play every fifth day. He’s overpaid, but who isn’t nowadays in baseball? Compared to where players with the stats and pedigree of Hellickson fall in terms of salary, he’s getting just about what he deserves. For a team that is rebuilding like the Phils, they can once again look into trading Hellickson in July, not minding having to absorb that big money contract. The Phils have plenty of money to blow this offseason, so spending a bit more than they might like to on a guy like this isn’t a bad choice at all for the time being. If he puts up a first half of 2017 that looks anything like his 2016 season, the return for him around July 31st 2017 could look awfully nice for Matt Klentak and company. Welcome back, J-Hell.
Photo: UCinternational (via: Wikimedia Commons)