The speculation that the Rays will trade a starting pitcher this offseason has been rampant. The obvious candidate for a trade if the Rays choose to go that route is James Shields as he’ll make 10.25 million dollars in 2012, but we’ve heard quite a bit about teams being interested in a different Rays right-hander: Jeremy Hellickson. If the Rays did trade Hellickson, what could they get in return?
In this trade, the Rays would be trading Hellickson, a starter who has managed a 3.02 ERA the last two seasons and is under team control for four more years, and in return they would be getting one of the Padres very best prospects and two big league players.
Liriano worked his way up from High-A to Double-A as a 21 year old in 2012, posting a .280/.350/.417 line with 32 doubles, 8 homers, 61 RBI, 32 of 40 stolen bases, and 119 strikeouts against 41 walks in 127 games and 520 plate appearances. Liriano shows ridiculous bat speed and flashes of power to go along with great speed, although he may lose a step as his 6’0″, 210 frame continues to fill out. Defensively, he’s a much better fit in right field than in center moving forward thanks to good range and an outstanding arm. Liriano’s major issue is that he needs continued work on pitch recognition as he comes up to the plate guessing and far too often guesses wrong. Liriano also has to find a way to make his power show up more in games to cancel out the speed he’s going to lose as he continues to mature. Liriano doesn’t look like a top prospect, not being one of those tall, lanky players you can dream on, but he can really play and could be ready for the big leagues in two years. The Padres really like him but could also be open to trading him in the right deal considering they have far bigger needs than in the outfield after Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, and Cameron Maybin played there for them in 2012.
Alonso, 25, had his rookie season in the big leagues in 2012 and played to mixed results, posting a .273/.348/.393 line (109 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 9 homers, 62 RBI, and 101 strikeouts against 61 walks in 155 games and 619 plate appearances. Alonso showed good plate discipline and a nice all-fields approach- but he’s a first baseman and where was the power? Obviously playing in Petco Park had to do with that, but Alonso has never shown much power, with his career high being 17 between Triple-A and the majors in the Reds organization in 2012. Alonso is also just barely passable defensively at first base. The question for Alonso is whether his power will ever show up- otherwise he’s Casey Kotchman with better pure hitting ability and plate discipline but much worse defense. Alonso’s value is certainly not at its highest point right now, but he’s certainly much better than anything the Rays have in their organization at this point. Kevin Charity summed him up as “He’s not a game-changer,” and unless his power materializes, that appears to be true.
Finally, Forsythe, who will turn 26 in January, had his first full year in the big leagues in 2012 and had a pretty nice season, posting a .273/.343/.390 line (106 OPS+) with 13 doubles, 6 homers, 26 RBI, 8 of 10 stolen bases, and 57 strikeouts against 28 walks in 91 games and 350 plate appearances. Forsythe is a versatile infielder with a nice all-around game. He shows good bat speed, solid plate discipline, and some power, and although he has below-average speed, he has great instincts on the basepaths and can swipe the occasional base. Defensively, Forsythe has a quick first step and a very good arm to allow him to profile very well at second and third base and fake shortstop when necessary, but as a natural third baseman he is too erratic everywhere else at this point. He played in 81 games at second base in 2012 for San Diego compared to 9 games everywhere else, but he ranked third in the National League with 12 errors despite playing just half a season there. Forsythe sounds like the type of player the Rays like, although he doesn’t really sure up any need for them and would likely go into a super-utility role with the Rays aiming to teach him the corner outfield positions and polish his defense across the board.
The Rays would receive three players under team control for quite a while in this trade, but only Liriano is exciting at all and I don’t think the Rays would accept. They need a first baseman and acquiring Liriano would be nice, but the Rays know what they have in Hellickson and are going to have to be blown away to trade him. The return in this trade would not be bad- the Rays get their starting first baseman for right now, a possible right fielder for the future, and a super-utility player who would certainly have a leg up on guys like Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, and Reid Brignac- but the Rays will be looking for more upside than this in a trade package. The Padres have a very deep farm system and they could put a trade package together that is to the Rays liking. The Rays need a catcher and the Padres have a solid catching prospect at Double-A in Jason Hagerty who the Rays would like. The type of package I could see netting Hellickson might involve the three players above along with Hagerty, and a low-levels pitching prospect with some upside like say Keyvius Sampson (who has great stuff but struggled quite a bit in 2012). At that point, the Padres would be trading a top prospect, two major league players, and two lower-tier prospects. Isn’t that crazy? Would the Padres be willing to give up such a package for Hellickson?
The Rays are in no rush to trade Jeremy Hellickson and a team will have to blow them away with an offer to make a deal come together. For the Padres and every other team in baseball, Hellickson is an interesting trade option in theory but is not nearly as attractive when you consider what it would take for the Rays to give him up. No matter how highly teams regard Hellickson, is it worth the cost to trade for him?