TODAY: Miami is also interested in Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Michael Pineda of the Yankees, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). While New York is “not ready” to deal Pineda at this time, that presumably isn’t a limiting factor with regard to Cashner.
Both of these righties possess rather different profiles than does Hellickson. Cashner is also a pending free agent, but he arguably comes with a higher ceiling and a lower recent track record. Though he turned in his best start of the year recently, he is still carrying a lackluster 5.05 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 on the year. And Cashner has not only seen his fastball lose a full tick of velocity, but is running up a career-low 6.8% swinging strike rate.
Pineda has been similarly inconsistent, though perhaps there’s greater reason for optimism in his case. Despite a 5.56 earned run average, he’s carrying a robust 10.7 K/9 while issuing only 2.4 free passes per nine innings over his 100 1/3 frames on the year. That’s supported by the deeper peripherals: Pineda’s average heater is sitting at about 94 mph, and he is generating swings and misses on 13.7% of his pitches. Notably, too, Pineda comes with an added year of team control via arbitration.
YESTERDAY: The Marlins’ search for rotation help has spanned many targets over the past month, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro adds another name to the list today, tweeting that Miami is interested in division-rival Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies. Marlins scouts and officials will get an up-close look at Hellickson this week, as he’s slated to pitch against Miami on Wednesday when the Fish are in Philadelphia. Notably, Frisaro adds that he does indeed expect Miami to make “a trade or two” prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline.
Hellickson, 29, is in the midst of his best season since 2012. The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year was brilliant early in his career after graduating from top prospect status, but he posted a 4.86 ERA from 2013-15 with the Rays and D-backs while battling elbow and hamstring injuries. This year, he’s taken the mound 19 times and posted a solid 4.03 ERA in 111 2/3 innings (despite a hitter-friendly home environment) while averaging 7.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 to go along with a 41 percent ground-ball rate. That type of work certainly doesn’t make him a front-line addition to a rotation, but the Marlins have reportedly been seeking a dependable source of innings to round out the back of their rotation as opposed to a top-tier starter to pair with ace Jose Fernandez. In that sense, Hellickson fits the bill.
The trouble for the Marlins, as we’ve noted in the past, is that their farm system is among the worst-regarded in all of baseball, and they already thinned it out by moving well-regarded right-hander — Chris Paddack — to pluck Fernando Rodney from the Padres. The organization’s top prospect entering the season, Tyler Kolek, underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year as well, though it’s unlikely that the Marlins would’ve been particularly fond of the notion of parting with him in exchange for a two-month rental. That same reluctance would presumably apply to 2015 first-rounder Josh Naylor — the club’s new top-ranked prospect.
None of that is to say that the Marlins can’t work out a trade for Hellickson (or another starter), of course. Even a weak farm system has intriguing names throughout its ranks, and the asking price on Hellickson is unlikely to be exorbitant. He’s earning $7MM in his final season before free agency, and while he’s a candidate for a qualifying offer, the Phils may not be keen on the idea of offering $16MM+ to a player they acquired as a salary dump. Hellickson has exceeded the expectations of most pundits, and the safer play for the Phillies would likely be to cash in on him now rather than face the QO dilemma in October.
The Marlins have also been connected to the likes of Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Rich Hill, Chris Archer and Ervin Santana this summer, and they reportedly expressed interest in Drew Pomeranz and Bud Norris before their respective trades to the Red Sox and Dodgers. At 49-42, they’re six games back from the division-leading Nationals and in a tie with the division-rival Mets for the second NL Wild Card spot.