Opinion

After Norris Trade, All Eyes Turn To Hellickson

philphylissOne day you’re talking about a six-man rotation, and the next you’re thinking about how to send one of the pitchers out of Philadelphia.

The Dodgers today traded for Bud Norris. The Atlanta starter is a panic pickup for Los Angeles, who just lost ace Clayton Kershaw to the 15-day disabled list with a lower back injury. Norris, 31, who has split time between the rotation and bullpen, has a 4.22 ERA (3.84 FIP) with 60 strikeouts and 28 walks this season.

The Braves also sent underwhelming double-A outfielder Dian Toscano to the Dodgers. In return, the Braves received pitchers Philip Pfeifer (2015 third-round pick, 2.97 ERA in A, A+) and Caleb Dirks (1.44 ERA in AA, ranked 30th in LA system by MLB Pipeline).

That’s actually a relatively decent haul for Norris, who had no future in Atlanta this season; Toscano is a throwaway (along with some cash Atlanta sent), and both Pfeifer and Dirks could be in the majors sooner than later. They’re both potential relief options.

The Norris trade is important to the Phillies because they, like the Braves, have a veteran pitcher who’s likely to change teams before the trade deadline. Jeremy Hellickson, 29, has a 4.23 ERA (4.45 FIP) with 84 strikeouts and 24 walks this season. He’s been durable and relatively solid, the kind of pitcher a contending team could use down the stretch.

And considering Hellickson’s numbers are similar to Norris, the Phils should shoot for a similar haul – two potential role players in the A/AA level – if they’re looking to deal him. (The major difference between the two is contract, as Hellickson is making $4.5 million more this season; the Phillies should simply eat that money in any trade.)

Who might be interested in Hellickson?

The Red Sox and Marlins have about three working starters. The Rangers have injury issues. The Royals, Orioles, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals and Marlins could all use at least one starter.

The good news is there isn’t a big pot of healthy, effective veteran starters available for contenders. Hellickson likely leads the group, which also includes the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker and very little else.

So the Phillies have an advantage here. And with the Norris trade, they see what Hellickson can get them.

Over the next couple weeks the Phillies can really cash in on Hellickson’s value. A few future role players is absolutely worth it.

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