We have our first qualifying-offer acceptance of the offseason, and it’s Jeremy Hellickson who’s taken $17 million to stay put for another year. He’ll remain with the Phillies for now, and get paid rather handsomely to do so.
A guarantee of $17.2 million isn’t bad at all for a pitcher with Hellickson’s past. He was a somewhat interesting commodity given that he was coming off easily the best year of his career. Hellickson threw 189 innings of 3.71 ERA ball — or 3.98 FIP ball, if that’s more your speed. DRA, however, rated him at 4.34. Basically, Hellickson pitched like a middle-back-end guy and got a little lucky. Because this year’s stable of free-agent pitchers is largely composed of Rich Hill and a band of merry — if also raggedy — men, Hellickson would have probably had more than a few suitors had he declined the qualifying offer. The Phillies made him the offer assuming that he would — and that they would, in turn, collect the draft pick attached to it, cashing it in this coming summer.
Instead, Hellickson chose to take the money that was on the table, rather than gamble on another team buying into his good season. He more than doubled his career earnings by doing so. Hellickson has made about $16.3 million since making the big leagues, per Baseball-Reference. There’s also the matter of this:
Hellickson says he initially was leaning towards declining the QO but uncertainty of the market caused him to reconsider & accept. #Phillies
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) November 14, 2016
This is where we are with the pitching market. Because of the scarcity of talent, Hellickson made the most sense for a lot of teams. However, Hellickson isn’t exactly someone for whom teams would be willing to give up a first-round pick — especially if said teams also want to sign one of the premier position players available right now, many of whom are also tied to draft picks.
Instead of a compensation pick, the Phillies now have another 180-190 innings or so of halfway decent pitching to which they can look forward. Hellickson will give them that if nothing else. He is now a much richer man, and the Phillies now have another decent arm in their rotation as they seek to use this year to transition from the bottom of the barrel to respectability. He is the fourth player ever to accept a qualifying offer.
There may yet be a fifth, depending on what Neil Walker decides to do with his offer from the Mets. We’ll have analysis of that move when it happens.