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Tampa Bay Rays Free Agent Target: Jeremy Hellickson

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in relief against the Baltimore Orioles September 20, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 5 - 4 in 18 innings. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in relief against the Baltimore Orioles September 20, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 5 - 4 in 18 innings. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays will be in the market for a third starter to plug into the rotation behind Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, and a reunion with former Rookie of the Year right hander Jeremy Hellickson  could appeal to the Rays.

Jeremy Hellickson made his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2011 behind an impressive 13-10 record, 2.95 ERA, and a career high ERA+ of 128. He would go on to pitch three more seasons in Tampa Bay and was traded to Arizona in 2014 for two prospects, Andrew Velasquez and Justin Williams. Both Velasquez and Williams made their debut in Tampa during the 2018 season, while Williams was eventually traded to St. Louis shortly after his debut.

Hellickson battled through mediocre seasons spanning from 2013 to 2015, but rebounded nicely in Philadelphia in 2016. Halfway through 2017 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and became a free agent, eventually signing with the Washington Nationals.

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In Washington, Hellickson pitched effectively through an injury shortened season, one in which he only threw 91.1 innings. Albeit a small sample size, the former Ray made 19 starts and went 5-3. Across his 19 starts he compiled a 3.45 ERA, and the third best ERA+ of his career at 123.

The Tampa Bay Rays need to find a middle of the rotation starter for at least a portion of the year as they wait for the much-anticipated return of Brent Honeywell who underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training this past spring training. Reuniting with an under the radar free agent such as Jeremy Hellickson could add a nice change of pace to the Rays rotation which already includes power pitchers, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow.

Employing a six pitch repertoire that includes a four seamer, changeup, knuckle curve, cutter, sinker, and a slider, Hellickson relies on his ability to keep hitters off-balance and induce weak contact. With his fastball sitting 88-91, he would provide a nice change of speed in middle of the Rays rotation. Out of his six pitches, he leans on his fastball, changeup, and knuckle curve over 86% of the time.

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Hellickson isn’t going to provide the Rays with 200 innings and the Rays should be totally fine with that. If Hellickson is cruising right along when it is time for Honeywell to make his debut then one of two things will happen. One, the Rays will simply employ a four man rotation and only use an opener one time every five days. The second option would be to ease Honeywell’s burden as he comes back from Tommy John surgery and use him as an effective “bulk” guy for the remainder of the season. If Hellickson is struggling at the time of Honeywell’s return then they could simply slide him into a “bulk” role.

It will be interesting to see what Hellickson’s asking price will be as he enters his age 32 season and his 10th year in the league. I can’t see his asking price to be too high. His 2017 contract with Washington totaled 2 million along with incentives and I think the Rays could look to offer him a similar deal. It will be a bit more hefty than 2 million, as he pitched well while he was healthy but Hellickson could prove to be a more cost-effective choice than a name like Happ or Eovaldi.

Whether or not Hellickson is on the Rays radar going into the offseason is unknown, but he could fit well in the rotation and could be a nice under the radar signing going into 2019.

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