Hellickson, 29, who in 2016 went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA, will be under a one-year contract for $17.2 million with the Phillies for 2017. A Scott Boras client, Hellickson was widely thought to be the top pitcher in the offseason free agent market (dependent on him rejecting the Phils’ offer).
INSTANT ANALYSIS: All along we said extending the qualifying offer was a win-win move for the Phils. Either they get a compensatory draft pick for losing Hellickson, or they gain the likely top pitcher in the free agent market for slightly above market value on a low-risk contract. Hellickson decided not to risk the market, so this is a win.
Hellickson probably isn’t worth $17.2 million per season, even if according to Fangraphs, his 3.2 WAR in 2016 was worth about $25.6 million. He’s more of a $14-$16 million per season pitcher, but the Phils can afford to overpay for a pitcher for 2017, especially if it’s a pitcher they know and are comfortable having in the payroll. Plus, by all accounts Hellickson likes Philadelphia and the organization and wants to help the young rotation grow and succeed. Of any starter the Phils could’ve nabbed this offseason, Hellickson is maybe the safest and best bet.
As for Hellickson, maybe he didn’t like being the alpha dog, thinking teams might pass on him early in the process for lower-risk plays. Or maybe he really wants to be in Philly. It’s possible the Phils try to work out a long-term deal for Hellickson; that seems less likely than a mid-season (or offseason) trade to extract value, but either way, there’s comfort for all sides here.
In the end, the Phils’ offseason plan now becomes more clear. They already acquired a back-end reliever and outfielder. Now they have a veteran starter to again work with Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff and the other young arms. Hellickson is a low risk, but a smart play, for a team set on keeping options open and payroll loose in the short term.