Sometimes, clubs add through subtraction. When the Diamondbacks traded right-handed Jeremy Hellickson Saturday to the Philadelphia Phillies that appeared to be the case.
Hellickson was considered a major disappointment in the 2015 season, and the Diamondbacks counted on the 28-year-old to move seamlessly into the rotation. Instead, Hellickson labored most of the season and as early as the opening two weeks of spring training complained of “a dead arm.” Throughout the season, Hellickson labored with high pitch counts and failed to go deep into games.
For the season, Hellickson went a marginal 9-12 in 27 starts and complied a 4.62 ERA. As well, he allowed 22 home runs, second on the team behind Rubby De La Rosa (32) in 146.0 innings. For the season, Hellickson allowed 151 hits. One barometer for efficiency is for a pitcher to allow fewer hits than innings pitched.
Overall, Hellickson was hurt by lack of durability and high pitch counts. He pitched into the seventh inning or beyond in just two of his 27 starts and his pitch count neared 100, for five or six innings, in most of the starts. To further compromise his only season in Arizona, Hellickson landed on the disabled list from Aug. 20 to Sept. 11 with a left hamstring strain. In his final start of the season, he lost to Houston 6-2 on Oct. 3 in a game in which Hellickson lasted only five innings and reached a pitch count of 82, 55 for strikes.
In dealing Hellickson, whom the Diamondbacks acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on Nov. 14 of last year, Arizona received right-handed prospect Sam McWilliams, who was ranked as the 27th prospect in the Phillies organization by MLBPipline.com. At 20-years-old, McWilliams made seven starts for the rookie Gulf Coast League Phillies and went 0-2 with a 3.27 ERA. At 6-7 and 190 pounds, McWilliams, out of Hendersonville, Tenn., was selected in the eighth round of the 2014 draft by Philadelphia.
In desperate straits for pitching help, the Phillies could have done better then trading for Hellickson. Nonetheless, veterans Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley, Cliff Lee and Jerome Williams are not expected to return in Phillies pinstripes. Hellickson now becomes to the go-to veteran of the staff. For a pitcher with a career mark of 49-48, that may be an unrealistic designation.
“This offseason we made it a priority to add a stabilizing influence to our young rotation, and we think we found that guy in Jeremy,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak told MLB.com. “I think one of the things on top of the obvious is that he’s a veteran guy, but still just 28 years old. He’ll pitch at 29 this season, so we’re excited that he’s still in his prime. And more than anything, he’s a competitor. He wants the ball. We’ve talked about building an environment and we think he’ll be a very positive influence on our staff.”
At the conclusion of this past season, Dave Stewart, the Diamondbacks’ general manager, said left-handers Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin, along with righty De La Rosa, were three pitchers who had the inside track, coming into spring training, to top the Arizona rotation Two clear omissions were Chase Anderson (6-6, 4.30 ERA in 27 starts) and Hellickson. Also absent from Stewart’s early off-season conversation were a pair of right-handed prospects, Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley, both former number one selections by the Diamondbacks.
For now, the trade of Hellickson appears to be a classic transaction of subtracting a marginal player and making room for one with a greater prospect. While the Hellickson deal is the first significant trade for Stewart in here in the offseason, the action could pick up within the next few weeks. That’s when teams get ready for the winter meetings, Dec 6-10 in Nashville, and major trades are usually finalized. In order to bolster his pitching staff and complement a strong offensive line-up, Stewart, in the coming weeks, will likely be more than just a casual observer.