In the first trade of Matt Klentak's young tenure as the Phillies' general manager, the team on Saturday traded for a veteran pitcher to add to its young starting rotation.
The rebuilding Phillies acquired righthander Jeremy Hellickson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for pitching prospect Sam McWilliams. Hellickson, 28, joins a rotation expected to include righthanders Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and lefthander Adam Morgan.
Hellickson, a former rookie of the year and gold glove winner, has a career 3.96 ERA over six major league seasons, the first five with the Tampa Bay Rays. He posted a 4.62 ERA over 27 starts last season, his first with Arizona. He is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility and set to become a free agent after next season. He made $4.28 million last year.
Hellickson posted a 2.95 ERA in 2011, his rookie of the year season with Tampa Bay, and a 3.10 ERA in 2012 but has a 4.86 ERA over the last three seasons. He is known as a fly ball pitcher, having allowed 20 or more in each of his four full seasons.
“This offseason we made it priority to add a stabilizing influence to our young rotation and we think we found that guy in Jeremy," Klentak said. "He’s been a steady performer the last five years and he has some hardware on his mantel, a rookie of the year and Gold Glove.
“I think one of the things on top of the obvious is that he’s a veteran guy, but still just 28 years old. He’ll pitch at 29 this season, so we’re excited that he’s still in his prime. And more than anything, he’s a competitor. He wants the ball. We’ve talked about building an environment and we think he’ll be a very positive influence on our staff.
McWilliams, a 6-foot-7 righthander who turned only 20 in September, was the Phillies' eighth-round draft pick in 2014 out of Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tenn. He posted a 3.27 ERA over seven starts with the organization's Gulf Coast League affiliate last year.
This is the second consecutive November 14 on which Hellickson was traded. The Rays dealt him to the Diamondbacks last year for minor leaguers Andrew Velazquez and Justin Williams. Phillies fans might also remember Hellickson as the pitcher whose fastball inadvertently broke Maikel Franco's left wrist back in August at Chase Field.
The addition of Hellickson means one less starting pitcher the Phillies need to acquire in free agency. The team is not expected to be big players in free agency but will likely sign at least one veteran pitcher to eat innings in the second season of its rebuilding process.
Hellickson is the third pitcher the Phillies have acquired since Klentak, 35, was hired by new team president Andy MacPhail on Oct. 26. They previously claimed righthanded reliever Dan Otero off waivers from the Oakland Athletics and signed lefthanded reliever James Russell to a minor-league contract.