The Philadelphia Phillies have made a 2017 contract qualifying offer to one of their key starting pitchers, and fans wonder how they should feel about it.
Major League Baseball teams had until Monday afternoon to extend a “qualifying offer” to any of their pending free agents. By choosing to not extend the offer, the player would immediately have become a free agent, free to sign with any other team.
But by extending the offer, the team would place the proverbial ball back in the player’s court. A player would have one week to decide whether to accept or decline the offer.
Accept, and the player returns to the team under a one-year contract at the predetermined value. Decline the offer, and the player has decided that he will take his chances in free agency.
If the player then signs a contract with another team, that signing team forfeits their first round selection in the next MLB Amateur Draft to the previous team.
That is, unless such a draft pick is “protected”, meaning that it is among the top ten picks in the draft. If the signing team possesses such a top ten pick, then the previous owners would receive the next highest pick from the signing team.
It is by no means a slam-dunk decision for the player. This year, the value of MLB qualifying offers was set at $17.2 million dollars, the average of the top 125 salaries from this past season.
Accept the offer and a player has decided to remain with his team for another year, playing for that $17.2 million salary. It’s not a bad deal. You make good money, and then can become a free agent once again next year.
In the end, ten players were extended those qualifying offers from their teams. Among them was Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. By extending the offer to Hellickson the Phillies have basically decided that he is worth $17.2 million to return to their rotation.
But if Hellickson chooses to leave and signs with another club, the Phillies would at least receive a nice draft pick as compensation.
So what should Phillies fans hope happens in the Hellickson situation? Fact is, this is a “no lose” for the Phils and their fans.
If Hellickson accepts the offer, the Phillies get back a respected, effective, and reliable starting pitcher at a price they can certainly afford, and are only obligated to him for one season.
If he rejects the offer, the Phils are almost certain to receive a first round pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft.
In a weak free agent starting pitching market, Hellickson is one of the most attractive arms available. The right-hander turns 30 years of age just after the 2017 MLB season is due to get underway. That means that he should have 4-5 years of prime pitching remaining.
Usually reliable, Hellickson has made at least 27 starts in five of the last six seasons. In four of the six, he has reached at least 174 innings pitched.
In the 2016 season with the Phillies, Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.153 WHIP. He allowed 173 hits in 189 innings with a 154/45 K:BB ratio.
Hellickson was the only starting pitcher to receive a qualifying offer. Others to receive the offer from their teams were RP Kenley Jansen (LAD), DH Edwin Encarnacion (TOR), 2B Neil Walker (NYM), 3B Justin Turner (LAD), and outfielders Dexter Fowler (CHC), Ian Desmond (TEX), Jose Bautista (TOR), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM) and Mark Trumbo (BAL).
Getting Hellickson back to pitch in front of youngsters Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Jake Thompson, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin provides a quality, proven arm and reliable depth.
But losing Hellickson to another team would provide the Phillies with another quality prospect for their vastly improved minor league system as the rebuilding program moves forward.
It genuinely is a win-win for the Phillies and their fans, who should not be hoping for the situation to be resolved either way. To quote the old Bill Murray comedy film “Meatballs”: “It just doesn’t matter.“