The Jeremy Hellickson trade has finally taken place, with the Tampa Bay Rays receiving shortstop Andrew Velazquez and outfielder Justin Williams in the deal. It is not difficult to argue, though, the Rays actually received a pretty decent starting pitching prospect as part of their return as well. A similar version of the Jeremy Hellickson trade could have easily happened a month or two from now, but the timing and the exact manner in which the Rays sent him off is going to save them at least one player from their 40-man roster.
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The Rays likely could have received a major league pitcher for Hellickson. They could have gotten someone who was younger and not quite as talented, yet was capable of filling in the fifth starter spot until Matt Moore returned from Tommy John Surgery. The Rays recognized, however, that they had no need for such a pitcher. They have pitching depth with Alex Colome, Nate Karns, and Matt Andriese, and with Hellickson heading out the door and Moore absent, this is the perfect time to use it. Instead, the Rays’ return featured more upside although also substantially more risk.
Here’s the thing, though, if the Rays received a number four or five starter-type for Hellickson like the Arizona Diamondbacks received for Brandon McCarthy, that would do nothing for them. They have enough pitchers who are that good or better, so even a “safe” pitcher would provide them with very little value. When your payout would be almost zero otherwise, why not take a chance? There is no guarantee that Velazquez or Williams will turn into anything, but gambling on their futures is a better proposition that adding an unnecessary arm to your roster.
Speaking of arms, now it is much clearer that the Rays will be able to add a fifth player to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. There was no question that the Rays were going to protect Ryan Brett, Justin O’Conner, Mikie Mahtook, and Andriese, but it was uncertain whether the Rays had enough room for Grayson Garvin or Adam Liberatore as well. Now, the Rays do have such a spot–likely for Garvin–and Matt Silverman and the Rays front office will deserve some addition credit from this trade if the pitcher they add develops as hoped.
Garvin is not quite a major league pitcher, but he has at least mid-rotation upside with a good fallback option as a reliever. Were the Rays going to get as good of a pitcher as him for Hellickson? They probably would have when we factor in Garvin’s injury history. Nevertheless, the Rays didn’t just get Garvin, but also two impressive low-minors players in Velazquez and Williams. Even if the Rays sacrificed a small portion of their return in the Jeremy Hellickson trade to get players who don’t need to be added to their 40-man roster, their talent plus the abilities of Garvin should make it all worthwhile.