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.