Through five starts in 2017, and dating back to September 12 of last season, righty Jeremy Hellickson has surrendered more than two runs exactly one time. That came back on September 23, when the Mets shelled Hellickson for six earned runs over just 4.1 innings.
Other than that poor start, Hellickson has been masterful for the Phillies. He’s giving up just six earned runs total over eight starts, posting an outstanding 1.11 ERA in those starts. He hasn’t gone particularly deep, on average, throwing just over six innings a start, but the quality should outweigh the quantity in his case.
So let’s just tie this all together for a second. Eight starts, 48.2 innings pitched, six earned runs. Those are Clayton Kershaw type numbers. Those are Madison Bumgarner type numbers. Those are ace type numbers.
Let’s compare the time frame we’re discussing. Over the same eight starts, Clayton Kershaw threw 55.1 innings, allowing 11 earned runs. That’s a 1.79 ERA. During that span, Madison Bumgarner pitched 55 innings, and surrendered 20 earned runs. That comes out to be a 3.27 ERA.
Now, let’s slow down one moment. Jeremy Hellickson, an ace? I know what you’re thinking, maybe you want to slow your role just a little bit there, my friend. He’s been good, but is Hellickson the same caliber pitcher as Kershaw, Bumgarner or Sale? The answer to that is: stuff wise? Probably not. Sheer, unfiltered numbers? Recently, yes.
We’ve seen Hellickson’s numbers, we’ve (certainly controversially) compared him to world beaters in the Major Leagues. So, what’s the bigger scope of this piece? Well, I promise we’re getting to that. I just needed to provide some context first, before I try to explain why, despite the fact that Jeremy Hellickson has been lights out over the last two months of baseball, he still should be wearing a different uniform in July.
That’s right, the Phillies best move, despite their better than expected start to the season, and the fact that Hellickson has been a major key to that success, is still to trade Hellickson at the deadline this year. Why? Because they’ll never get more return for him than what they will right now.
Hellickson gambled on himself last year when he took a one-year deal worth $17.2 million to stay with the Phillies for 2017. So far, that gamble is paying off. If the Phillies decide they want to keep his services through the rest of the year, barring a playoff run, Hellickson will likely test the free agent waters in the offseason. If he continues to pitch well, he’ll demand a steep price for the next couple of years. Being a Scott Boras client, we all know he’ll get it. We also know it’ll probably come from the Yankees.
With that said, the Phillies will likely not be able to retain Hellickson past this year, so they’ll need to make some phone calls in the next couple of months and find a suitor that could use a veteran like Hellickson to add to their rotation for a stretch run. That trade, contingent on him continuing to pitch well, could garner a decent haul in return, including more pieces for the rebuild into the future for the Phillies. He won’t get a Ken Giles-esque return, but a solid prospect or two could come the Phillies way. It’s a much better option than rolling the dice this season and watching him walk away to another team for 2018 while generating nothing in return.
That’s the best case scenario for a possible trade. The worst case scenario would be to have exactly what happened to them last year happen again. If you recall, throughout the first half of the 2016 season, new closer Jeanmar Gomez was dominant, recording 27 saves in 30 opportunities, posting a 2.77 ERA as July came to a close. The Phillies decided to not deal Gomez, and instead, hold onto him for the final two months. Since then, Gomez has blown four more save opportunities, lost the closer role, and saw his ERA swell two full points last year, and is almost 10.00 this year. Now, the Phillies would be lucky to get a bag of balls for Gomez.
The Phillies can’t make the same mistake twice. If they want to continue to rebuild and increase their chances of competing in the coming years, it’s time to look for a trade partner for Jeremy Hellickson, short time Phillies ace, long term trade bait.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports