Sizing Up The Dbacks Trade For Jeremy Hellickson


The Dbacks traded for Jeremy Hellickson yesterday. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired RHP Jeremy Hellickson for two low level prospects. This was the first major move made by new Dbacks G.M. Dave Stewart and his front office.

The first thing I observed is that this trade accomplished what Stewart said was his teams no.1 priority all winter: upgrade and improve the starting rotation. On the other hand, Stewart has indicated since he was hired that he doesn’t want to give up minor league talent to make drastic moves.

However this is what I also know: Stewart has indicated that he thinks Hellickson can be a solid no.2 or no.3 starter, and the buzz about the Dbacks having interest in him has been going on for weeks.

So to be honest it doesn’t surprise me that this trade happened, but that doesn’t mean I thought it was a great trade.

The impact of this trade goes beyond just Hellickson itself which makes it both complicated and interesting.

First of all the addition of Hellickson adds yet another name to the complicated Dbacks starter competition. I am assuming that the 28 year old veteran is a lock for the 2015 rotation along with Josh Collmenter, and Wade Miley.

Then there are more than a handful of guys that will compete for the fourth and fifth spots in the spring, not to mention the talent and depth in the upper levels of the Snakes farm system that are almost ready namely Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair, and Tuki Toussiant.

This trade also changes the salary and payroll dynamic. Hellickson is projected to make $3.9 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility next season.

This will have to be added to the Dbacks budget. If the Diamondbacks want to cut payroll, then they might make some payroll cutting moves soon.

As far as Hellickson goes, he has been average in his career. In 2011 he won the American League Rookie of the Year award going 13-10 with a 2.95 era. His numbers suggest that he has been helped by his defense. His career FIP is 4.15. Expect exceptional defense to continue.

Most experts believe Hellickson is no more than a good no.4 starter with great stuff and a lot of upside. Stewart believes that his struggles in 2013 and 2014 had to do with bone chips in his elbow.

This is what Stewart said about Hellickson:

“In just about every deal that we’re going to do, I’m going to try and get as much information as I can, first of all,” Stewart said when asked what he liked about Hellickson. “I touched base with a lot of people to find out about him, people who had seen him pitch and people who know him. One, they said he was competitive. And I’ve seen him pitch on a couple of occasions and he commands his fastball and throws to both sides of the plate, he pitches inside well and he changes speeds well, which is the definition of a pitcher.”

That’s great, but I don’t know if Hellickson is a great fit for the Desert, practically Chase Field where he will pitch more than half of his games.

Last season according to FanGraphs, he coughed up fly balls on 40.9% of the batters he faced. Only 10 other qualified starters had higher fly ball percentages. He also has one of the lowest ground ball rates in baseball.

There is doubt that he is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and Chase Field gives up a lot of fly ball contract and home runs. His numbers might improve switching from the A.L. East to the N.L. West, but on the surface it’s not a good fit. Remember, Addison Reed who is also a fly ball pitcher had his worst season last year pitching at Chase.

However, Hellickson is under control for two seasons in his prime years and maybe he can return to his 2011 form. He will probably become a free agent in 2017, which sets up perfectly for guys like  Blair, and Shipley to step in.

The Dbacks also didn’t give up a whole lot . Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez have a lot of upside, but both haven’t played past low ball, and they probably won’t reach the majors till at least 2017. Velazquez turned some heads last season, but he is a SS and the Dbacks have to much depth at that position.

Hellickson also is  a better option than a lot of in house candidates. I don’t think this is a great trade, but it also isn’t a bad trade. Only time will tell, but if Hellickson has problems at Chase, than this trade will be a bust.

I think this is a low risk high upside move that trades for a position of need and gives up players from positions of strength mainly SS. I’m in the middle with this trade, but for now I think it’s a good move. As I said before, only time will tell if Hellickson can succeed in Arizona.