Nothing is set in stone yet, but it appears that Jeremy Hellickson‘s time with the Tampa Bay Rays is about to come to an end. Hellickson is still a talented enough pitcher to overcome the injuries and command issues that derailed him in 2013 and 2014. However, the Rays have plenty of pitching depth, and it makes no sense to keep Hellickson when they have cheaper alternatives they still can trust.
There was a line of thinking that the Rays would give Hellickson a chance to reestablish his value while Matt Moore rehabs from Tommy John Surgery, but we now have evidence to the contrary. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that a Hellickson deal was likely to happen soon. If and when it does occur, the team involved could be the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the Diamondbacks, Hellickson would be an interesting addition to a starting staff that features depth but could use an upgrade. The irony, though, is that the D-Backs could be executing a trade very similar to one for which they were on the receiving end back in July. At that juncture, Arizona traded a little under three months of Brandon McCarthy for a controllable pitcher in Vidal Nuno. The fact that Hellickson has two years of team control remaining increases his trade value, but the basic idea could be the same.
A pitcher with more upside than Nuno that the D-Backs could afford to part with is Randall Delgado. The former top prospect pitched primarily out of the bullpen for the D-Backs in 2014 with poor results, managing a 4.87 ERA in 77.2 innings pitched. Delgado’s 3.39 FIP looks a great deal better–he could have a future in relief–but whether Delgado will ever like up to his potential as a starting pitcher is an open question.
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On the positive side, Delgado will turn only 25 in March and has good stuff, reaching the 93-94 MPH range with his fastball to go along with a good changeup and a halfway-decent breaking ball. He also is much cheaper than Hellickson considering he won’t even be arbitration-eligible until after 2015. The issue with him, though, is that he now has a 4.23 ERA and just 6.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in 257.1 IP as a big league starter. Just like what the Rays are saying regarding Hellickson, the D-Backs may decide at some point that they should let Delgado be someone else’s concern.
If the Rays asked the Diamondbacks for Randall Delgado in exchange for Jeremy Hellickson, there is no guarantee that they would say yes. It is unclear how much better Hellickson is than Delgado, especially given that Delgado has two additional years of team control left. Nevertheless, after the D-Backs watched Brandon McCarthy take off after heading to the Yankees, they have to wonder whether taking a risk on Hellickson is worth a depth piece like Delgado. It will be interesting to see whether talks between the Rays and D-Backs will go this route.