3:56pm: Philadelphia has officially announced the offer to Hellickson.
10:33pm: The Phillies will make a qualifying offer today to right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He’ll have a week to decide whether to take the one-year, $17.2MM offer or instead enter the free agent market with the requirement that a new team sacrifice a draft pick to sign him.
Depending upon one’s perspective, this move will come as obvious or as quite a surprise. All the chatter around the team of late has suggested that Hellickson was in line to be tagged with a QO — which became especially clear when the Phils decided not to move him at the trade deadline. But Hellickson has never been a frontline arm and perhaps doesn’t feel like the type of player who’d typically have this level of cash dangled.
Hellickson is coming off of his best season in some time, as he contributed 189 innings of 3.71 ERA ball to the Phils. His peripherals are in about the same range as usual, though, as he ended with 7.3 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 and a 40.7% groundball rate. ERA estimators weren’t particularly excited: Hellickson did post full-season career lows in FIP (3.98) and xFIP (3.99), though those are hardly stellar marks. His SIERA has landed between 4.04 and 4.15 in each of the last four seasons, and perhaps that’s the best indication of what teams can reasonably expect moving forward.
Ultimately, it’s not hard to see Philadelphia’s reasoning, especially given the runaway spending seen last winter on starting pitching and the thin supply available this winter. If he were to take the offer, it may be something of an overpay for a single season. But it would only be a one-year commitment, and this organization can certainly afford it — and might even welcome the chance to welcome back the righty after a sturdy campaign. If he rejects it, of course, Philly would line up to add a draft pick that could be quite valuable at this stage of the team’s rebuilding effort.
There’s something of a win-win in the decision for the team. From Hellickson’s perspective, the offer is not welcome, but there are silver linings as well. For one thing, it’s nice to have this kind of cash on the table, even if it’s only on a one-year rate. And the offer suggests that the Phils were impressed with him last year, which provides some information to the rest of the market. If Hellickson prefers to stay in Philadelphia, he could still negotiate a lengthier pact. But given the state of the pitching market, there’s good reason to think he can turn down the QO and still do just fine in free agency.