Trading Jeremy Hellickson

By David Hill

As recently as two weeks ago, it seemed ridiculous that the Rays would consider trading Jeremy Hellickson. Despite being mentioned in trade rumors involving the Mets Ike Davis, the idea of moving Hellickson just did not make much sense – why would the Rays move a player who may be at the lowest point of their value for a player likely to be granted free agency anyway? Such a move would appear to go against the Rays modus operandi.

Now, two weeks later, it may be fair to revisit the idea of trading Hellickson. Although his overall numbers may not look impressive by the end of the season, he has had stretches where he looked like the Hellickson on 2011 and 2012. Over a seven game stretch from June 19th through July 26th, Hellickson was 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA, striking out 37 batters in 43 innings. Despite his season taking a dramatic turn for the worse, culminating in a demotion to Charlotte so that he could clear his mind, Hellickson still displayed flashes of the type of pitcher that the Rays envisioned him turning into.

Aug 21, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) throws in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Since his recall once the rosters expanded, Hellickson has seemed different. He has appeared more confident on the mound, trusting his pitches and attacking hitters as he had during his run earlier in the year. While it has only been two starts, the results have still been there, as he has a 2.53 ERA and eleven strikeouts in his two September starts. If he can continue to pitch that way through the rest of the month and be an integral part of the Rays reaching the postseason, his value may find itself back at a reasonable point.

However, the Rays may find themselves needing to make decisions with their rotation soon. Prospects Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome appear poised to take the next step and entrench themselves as major league starters. Yet, the Rays rotation as it stands would not have room for either pitcher.

On the surface, it would seem that David Price would be the starter most likely to be traded. Price is already getting expensive for the Rays, and is likely to receive a raise in arbitration this year. However, there is the outside chance that the Rays could look to sign him to an extension. With each team getting an addition $25million in revenue next season due to MLB’s revenue sharing agreement, the Rays may find themselves in a position to lock Price up. Given his struggles at the start of the season and his injury that kept him out for a month and a half, the Rays may even find themselves able to get Price at a bit of a discount.

However, should that happen, this would still leave the question of how to handle Odorizzi and Colome. Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer likely are not going anywhere. If anyone was to be moved to open a spot for either prospect, Hellickson may end up being the odd man out.

September may not only be an important move for the Rays, but for Jeremy Hellickson also. How he performs down the stretch may not only have a direct impact upon the Rays playoff hopes, but on his future as well.