Jeremy Hellickson Rumors

Quick Hits: Tigers, Yankees, Burnett, Hellickson

The Tigers are a team built to win in the present, but that doesn’t mean their future has to be bleak, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The team’s recent four-year deal for Victor Martinez is one of many Tigers contracts that could turn ugly, and the team already has $75MM on the books in 2018 for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any flexibility. Considering the likelihood of modest payroll increases in the coming seasons, they could have a payroll north of $180MM in 2018. That would give them enough leeway to have a shot even with their current commitments and thin farm system. Sullivan suggests that one future-oriented move the Tigers could make would be to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011, hit .271/.376/.472 in a 2014 season split between Class A+ Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Bird then hit .313/.391/.556 in 26 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 22-year-old Bird isn’t on the same level as the previous winner, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant, but he could still potentially play his way onto the Yankees roster at some point in 2015.
  • Re-signing David Robertson is the Yankees’ highest priority this offseason, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. The Royals’ success shows how important a good bullpen can be, and how much a good ‘pen can do to help starters who don’t rack up high innings totals. With Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Jacob Lindgren, Shawn Kelley and new acquisition Justin Wilson, the Yankees could have one of the stronger bullpens in the Majors in 2015, Madden writes. On the flip side, the Yankees would like to re-sign starter Brandon McCarthy, but they think they’ll be able to replace him if another team outbids them.
  • A.J. Burnett is a back-end starter at this point, but his new discount contract is still a good one for the Pirates, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. The deal is only for one year, and it’s likely to produce about 1.5 WAR in value, which is a solid rate for an $8.5MM contract. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ homer-suppressing ballpark, defensive shifting and emphasis on pitch framing make Pittsburgh a great destination for pitchers.
  • Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks sees Jeremy Hellickson as “a number two or number three starter,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The prospects the Diamondbacks sent to the Rays, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez, both have potential. (Williams hit .351/.403/.437 in 320 plate appearances in rookie ball and at Class A South Bend this season, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old at any level.) But for Stewart, Hellickson’s talent was more important, and he can help the Diamondbacks now. They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they’re three or four years away from being major league players,” says Stewart. “We have an opportunity to get a good starter to put in our rotation now and go along with our plans for our team with the 2015 season.”

West Notes: Cruz, Mariners, Hellickson, Rangers

The Mariners make sense as a suitor for Nelson Cruz, but their organizational philosophy regarding players who have been suspended for PED could be an issue, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are conflicting details regarding whether the Mariners might have a policy in place preventing them from signing PED players and whether Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln refused to approve a deal for Cruz last winter. If they team does have such a policy, however, it could have a significant impact on their offseason, given that both Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who play positions the Mariners could try to upgrade, have PED suspensions in their pasts. A source within the Mariners tells Morosi that the team does not have a policy against PED players, and, further, that the team has spoken to Cruz and his agent this offseason. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano fractured his toe while playing in Japan Saturday and will miss the rest of the Japan series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Cano will only be out three to four weeks, however, and should easily be ready for spring training.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a big fan of new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona writes. “He is going to be outstanding here,” says Stewart. “He is going to pitch well. This is one guy I believe is really going to help our rotation.” The Hellickson deal, which sent two prospects to Tampa, became official last night. The Diamondbacks will continue to search for starting pitching, Magruder adds, with Kenta Maeda or Chad Billingsley (a former client of Stewart’s when he was an agent) as possibilities.
  • The Rangers‘ recent extensions for GM Jon Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine help provide continuity and stability throughout the organization, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. “We want to build from within and keep the group together,” says Daniels. “Thad and I are the ones mentioned in the press release, but [ownership] has allowed us to do good things for others.” Daniels adds that Levine is likely to one day be a GM, perhaps in Texas.

Diamondbacks Acquire Jeremy Hellickson

The Diamondbacks have reached a deal to acquire starter Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays, the clubs announced. Outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez — both prospects playing in the low minors — constitute the return for Tampa.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

The swap represents perhaps the first significant move of the tenure of both principle baseball decisionmakers involved: GM Dave Stewart of the D’backs and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman of Tampa. For Stewart, Hellickson represents the arm (or, perhaps, one of the arms) that he has repeatedly said was the focus of the offseason.

Hellickson is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in his second trip through the arbitration process. He will have one final year of control in 2016 before hitting the open market.

Entering his age-28 campaign, Hellickson has seen his value drop after a rough couple of campaigns. First, there is the fact that Hellickson has pitched to a 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings over 2013-14. Then, there’s the fact that he only threw 63 2/3 of those frames last year, after undergoing an elbow cleanup procedure just before the open of camp.

Hellickson took home the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award, but did so in spite of ERA estimators that valued him more as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. That assessment has never really changed; Hellickson has never posted a FIP, xFIP, or SIERA mark below the 4.00 level over a season. Though he averaged a 3.02 ERA over 366 innings in 2011-12, but those marks were propped up by an unsustainable BABIP (.223 and .261, respectively) and the regression came with a vengeance.

That being said, there are, perhaps, some signs of encouragement. Hellickson has seen his strikeout rate rise over each of the last three years. And those very same advanced metrics that predicted a decline after Hellickson’s hot start also look more promising now than they did at the time.

As for Tampa’s end of the deal, the club gets a pair of interesting young players while clearing some payroll space. Both Velazquez (#12) and Williams (#14) rated among the D’backs’ twenty best prospects in the most recent list from MLB.com’s prospect gurus Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo.

Previously a largely marginal prospect, he 20-year-old Velazquez made his name with a record-setting 74-game on-base streak this year, besting the more celebrated run of Mookie Betts. He finished a full season at low-A with a .290/.367/.428 slash to go with nine home runs and an eye-opening 50 stolen bases over 623 trips to bat. MLB.com says that Velazquez has improved his approach and strike zone awareness while delivering plus speed, though his small size and remaining contact issues could limit him moving forward.

Williams, 19, reached low-A ball last year after being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft. The left-handed-hitting youngster continued to put up strong overall numbers last year, but continues to lag in the power department. Over 544 plate appearances as a pro, Williams has swatted only five long balls. Despite the fact that he is said to possess a big power tool, it has yet to show up in game action. Nevertheless, his overall line in the minors — .351/.401/.461 — and solid pedigree led Baseball America to rate him the seventh overall prospect in the Pioneer League this year.

Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first reported that a deal was close between the two teams. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Twitter.that the deal was finalized. Cotillo (via Twitter), Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter) each reported elements of the prospect return.



D’Backs, Rays Working On Hellickson Trade

FRIDAY: The Diamondbacks are in negotiations with the Rays, and a deal could be in place soon, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links).

MONDAY, 9:14pm: The Rockies aren’t the mystery NL team, The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders reports (via Twitter).

1:47pm: The D’Backs have interest in Hellickson, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). However, it’s not clear that Arizona is in or has had any advanced talks with the Rays.

9:27am: The Rays are moving toward dealing right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to an unknown National League team, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Times (via Twitter). A deal is likely to get done this week, Sherman adds.

Hellickson, who turns 28 next April, was limited to 63 2/3 innings in 2014 as he recovered from January surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year pitched to a 2.95 ERA in a stellar rookie season, but he’s never graded out well when looking at sabermetric indicators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA. Each of those three metrics pegs Hellickson between 4.34 and 4.38, suggesting that his strong work early in his career was a bit of a mirage, likely propped up by a BABIP south of .260 and a strand rate north of 80 percent.

Over the past two seasons, Hellickson has an even 5.00 ERA in 237 2/3 innings. On the plus side, he’s bumped his K/9 to 7.2 over those past two seasons and dropped his walk rate to 2.7 per nine — both of which are improvements over the marks he posted early on in his career.

Though Hellickson has struggled recently and never graded out that well from a sabermetric standpoint, there’s plenty of upside to be had from an acquiring team’s standpoint. He’s still in his prime and was ranked among the game’s Top 10 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to his promotion to the Majors. The Scott Boras client can be controlled through the 2016 season and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a very reasonable $3.9MM in 2015.

Though the Rays dealt Cesar Ramos to the Angels last week, a Hellickson deal would be the first significant move by new Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and newly minted VPs Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom. The Cubs, Rockies, Giants, Pirates and Braves could all make some sense for Hellickson, and it’s of course worth speculating that new Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman is interested in re-acquiring the right-hander.


NL West Notes: Front Offices, Ellis, Morrow, Rox, Hellickson

The front office shuffling of the NL West continued today with another pair of moves. The Dodgers will hire Scott Bream away from the Tigers to be their new pro scouting director, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Padres announced that they’ve promoted regional supervisor Mark Conner to director of scouting. The 38-year-old Conner joined the Friars in 2010 as an amateur scout and was the scout responsible for signing the highly touted Matt Wisler.

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • New Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi declined to give a firm answer when asked by Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times whether or not the team will tender a contract to A.J. Ellis. However, Zaidi offered strong praise for Ellis’ leadership and relationships with the pitching staff. “…it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.
  • In a second tweet, Saxon notes that Brandon Morrow is a name to keep an eye on for Dodgers fans. As Saxon points out, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has had success turning starters with dynamic arms and transitioning them to the bullpen. Of course, it’s not clear if he is open to ‘pen work. Morrow indicated late in the season that his preference was to be a starter.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the team “absolutely, 100 percent” needs to upgrade its rotation. Bridich said the club is keeping all avenues open to acquire pitching talent. One possibility that may intrigue Rockies fans is Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Rays are said to be discussing with an NL club. However, Saunders hears from a Major League source that the Rockies aren’t targeting Hellickson at this time, although they have shown past interest.

NL West Notes: Sandoval, Dodgers, Hellickson

Could a clause regarding Pablo Sandoval‘s conditioning be written into his next contract?  ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick addressed the question, noting that a Sandoval contract could include bonuses rewarding him for staying at or under a certain weight.  Similar clauses have existed in other players’ contracts in the past, though the CBA doesn’t allow a team to reduce salary (or halt it altogether) if a player is over a set weight limit.

Here’s some more from around the National League West…

  • The Dodgers haven’t been having any internal discussion about bringing back Hanley Ramirez on a new multiyear deal, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports.  President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team is looking at shortstops in free agency and the trade market, and the Dodgers aren’t necessarily looking at short-term players to fill the position until prospect Corey Seager is ready.  “The limited supply at the position makes it hard to put a lot of rules on it,” Friedman said. “We’re going to try to acquire the best player we can and, if we wind up having depth there, that’s a good problem to have.”  As Saxon notes, Seager could eventually end up as a third baseman.
  • The Diamondbacks probably aren’t the ones “moving closer” to acquiring Jeremy Hellickson if the Rays are indeed approaching a trade with an NL team, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets.
  • Both Carlos Quentin and the Padres seem to “recognize what would be in their mutual interest” in regards to a trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.  A deal to an AL team would allow Quentin to rest his knees in a DH role, while the Padres can get at least a bit of Quentin’s $8MM salary for 2015 off their books.  While Quentin is probably open to waiving his no-trade clause, the greater question will be if a trade partner can be found given Quentin’s injury history.  Padres GM A.J. Preller recently said that the club wasn’t looking to move offensive players until some new bats were acquired, so releasing Quentin isn’t yet an option.

Cafardo On Hellickson, Gardenhire, Ramirez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes looks at six teams that badly need some fixing this offseason.  The list starts with the Braves, who have been held back in part by B.J. Upton‘s five-year, $75MM deal.  The Rangers also need some serious help in the form of two starting pitchers, a right-handed power bat, and possibly a catcher.  The Phillies are in the toughest spot of all, Cafardo writes, as they are overloaded with older players on bad contracts.  Here are some of the highlights from today’s column..

  • As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Jeremy Hellickson’s name has been surfacing.  One AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers-Jake Odorizzi for James Shields-Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive.
  • It looks more and more like Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will return next season.  A Twins executive said he would be “surprised” if Gardenhire didn’t come back based on his young team playing hard and having fun playing the spoiler role down the stretch.
  • Even with Alex Rodriguez coming back, Cafardo sees the Yankees as a possibility for Hanley Ramirez if the Dodgers don’t retain him.
  • The Red Sox haven’t committed to bringing David Ross back next season but it doesn’t appear he’ll have to worry about finding a job.  A few teams have privately discussed Ross as a backup/mentor.  If Boston moves on from Ross, there aren’t many clear-cut alternatives on the open market.
  • Red Sox vice president of player personnel Allard Baird had a very good interview for the Diamondbacks‘ vacant GM job, but Tony La Russa is still leaning towards Dave Stewart or Gary LaRocque, according to a source. Baird, of course, was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06.
  • Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield is beginning to receive more interest as a managerial candidate.  Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned more often for openings, Cafardo writes.

AL East Links: Cruz, Young, Greene, Pedroia

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN, Buster Olney expressed doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter.  The O’s are more likely to let Cruz go and pick up an extra draft pick (via the qualifying offer) since Cruz’s big season may have made him too expensive for Baltimore.  If the team looks for a right-handed bat to replace Cruz, Olney opines that the Braves’ Evan Gattis, rumored to be a trade candidate, would be a perfect fit as the Orioles’ new designated hitter.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Olney, Yankees GM Brian Cashman originally passed on the idea of signing Chris Young when the team’s statistical analysts recommended that the Yankees pick up the recently-released Met.  Cashman’s change of heart paid off, as Young has a whopping 1.266 OPS in his short stint (29 PA) as a Yankee and three homers, including a walkoff to beat the Rays last Thursday.
  • Rookie right-hander Shane Greene‘s emergence has been a boon for the Yankees‘ injury-riddled rotation, and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post details the unlikely story of how Greene originally caught the eyes of team scouts.  Greene, a 15th-round draft pick in 2009, has a 3.56 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.92 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 IP this season.
  • Dustin Pedroia‘s contract extension was considered to be very team-friendly when it was signed last year, but ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox were too quick to extend Pedroia given how recurring injuries caused his performance to drop off in 2014.  The Sox already had Pedroia locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) on a prior contract before tearing that deal up for his new extension that runs through the 2021 season.
  • The Rays‘ planned payroll cut might not be all that drastic, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, as the team still plans to contend next season.  Any payroll saved “will be the product of trades and tough choices.”  For instance, Topkin thinks Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce could be trade candidates, as both players will get raises in arbitration this winter.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR’s Steve Adams compiled more news from around the AL East.

Hellickson Out Until Mid-To-Late May Following Elbow Surgery

Rays right-hander and 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last week and is expected to be sidelined until mid-to-late May, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The 26-year-old Hellickson struggled through his worst season in 2013, posting a career-high 5.17 ERA and yielding a .274/.325/.450 batting line to opposing hitters. Hellickson, the Rays and agent Scott Boras all said that there were no physical ailments following the season, according to Topkin, but something flared up in his elbow when Hellickson began throwing in late January.

The Rays have the rotation depth to overcome an injury to Hellickson, as Jake Odorizzi now seems likely to step into the rotation alongside David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. It already appeared likely that the Rays would hang onto Price for at least one more season (contrary to what many pundits believed earlier this winter), but the loss of Hellickson may further strengthen that standpoint. The Rays have added payroll this offseason by re-signing James Loney to a three-year deal, signing Grant Balfour and acquiring Heath Bell and Ryan Hanigan (and extending the latter), so it seems unlikely that they'd shift from those win-now moves by dealing Price — especially with depleted rotation depth. As Topkin notes, Enny Romero and Alex Colome represent additional rotation options, but Colome himself is recovering from an injury.

Of course, the team could also look to the free agent or trade market to add another starting option. However, they already project for a record payroll (roughly $76MM, including league minimum players), so adding significant dollars seems unlikely. Adding a veteran with starting experience on a minor league deal could make some sense.

Hellickson has seen his own name raised in speculative trade talks coming off a down season, but this surgery eliminates the already unlikely scenario that he would find himself dealt to a new team. He and the Rays sidestepped arbitration this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.625MM. He'll be arb-eligible twice more before becoming a free agent following the 2016 season, but this injury will prevent him from accumulating some valuable innings and counting stats in 2014. That will suppress his 2015 arbitration payday, which would subsequently keep his 2016 salary down as well.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)