Right now, the Tampa Bay Rays have questions surrounding them, perhaps to the greatest extent since 2008. One thing we don’t wonder about, though, is their starting pitching depth. Next season, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, and Matt Moore will compose one of the best rotations in baseball. Moore won’t be back until June or so, but Jeremy Hellickson can fill that spot until then if not a younger option. Now is certainly not the best time to discuss Nate Karns and Alex Colome after the duo allowed 10 runs yesterday. Nevertheless, between them, Matt Andriese, and any starter the Rays could find on a minor league deal, it is difficult to imagine any scenario where the Rays can’t find a serviceable fifth starter for a couple of months. Since the Rays have all the starting pitchers they need, if the right opportunity arises to make yet another trade, they won’t hesitate to do so. This deal won’t be quite like the trades that sent David Price, James Shields, and Matt Garza out of town, but it could be interesting in its own right.
Jeremy Hellickson has been inconsistent since coming back from arthroscopic elbow surgery in June. Nevertheless, as reported by Nick Cafardo, teams still see his potential.
"As teams start putting together lists of pitchers who could be had in trade this offseason, Hellickson’s name has been surfacing. The Rays may be thinking otherwise, but one AL team believes that the Rays could make another Wil Myers–Jake Odorizzi for James Shields–Wade Davis type of deal centering around Hellickson, who is still just 27 and inexpensive."
Hellickson, despite his flaws, stands out to other franchises for a multiplicity of reasons. He is under team control for two more years, has shown effectiveness in the big leagues, has improved his peripherals over time, and could be acquired at a lesser price than he is really worth. Hellickson seems unlikely to turn into a 200-inning workhorse, but there is a chance that he can get back to being that low-3.00’s ERA pitcher for 175 or 185 innings. For the Rays, they don’t have an incentive to trade him until his value recovers–they can accommodate him in their rotation to begin 2015, and his value could be significantly higher if he pitches well for a few months. On the other hand, there was talk of Hellickson being traded in the 2012 offseason when his value was at its highest, and the Rays have paid dearly for not dealing him then. With that in mind, when Hellickson will be traded will come down to the offers that the Rays receive. The good news, though, is that like putting Wade Davis in the James Shields trade, the Rays have a player who they can use to sweeten any offer they get when the deals do come: Enny Romero.
Trading Enny Romero is something that the Rays have considered before. Right before the David Price trade took place, Romero’s name came up as someone that the Rays were hypothetically willing to deal. That should still be the case now. Romero is a high-upside pitcher, but the Rays have waited years for him to break through and it has not happened. As a 23 year old at Triple-A Durham, he went 5-11 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out 117 while walking 52 in 126 innings. His 2.25-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio was actually his best since 2011, so that is a good sign, but his command still needs plenty of work. Romero still has the ability to be a number three starter or even better if given more time to develop, but that is unlikely to happen given the Rays’ pitching depth. At this point, it may be worthwhile for the Rays to cash in on his value and pass on the risk associated with him to somebody else. Even if Romero does eventually find himself, the Rays have enough other arms that it should not make a difference.
Trading Jeremy Hellickson and Enny Romero would certainly yield a lesser return than James Shields and Wade Davis, but it gives the Rays the opportunity to acquire assets of value without losing much from present or future teams. The Rays will certainly be listening on Hellickson this offseason, and if the opportunity arises for them to acquire a player that can improve their team, they will not hesitate to put Romero on the table to close the deal.