SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeremy Hellickson has a week to decide between $17.2 million from the Phillies or the chance to be a free agent.

The Phillies, in the hopes of securing draft-pick compensation, issued the veteran righthander a qualifying offer before Monday's deadline, general manager Matt Klentak said. With such a barren pitching market this winter, the Phillies will bet on Hellickson's desire for a long-term contract to net them a high pick.

The pitcher's decision is complicated. If it were any other offseason, Hellickson would jump at a $17.2 million salary for one season. But the free-agent market for starting pitchers is so unimpressive and teams are always willing to spend on reliable rotation arms. That is what could compel Hellickson, whose agent is Scott Boras, to seek a multi-year deal elsewhere with a larger guarantee but smaller annual average salary.

Then again, teams could be reluctant to extend a multi-year deal while also surrendering a draft pick to sign Hellickson, a pitcher who has been good but not great. Hellickson, at the end of last season, said stability was important to him. He has pitched for three teams in three seasons. He has until Nov. 14 to accept the Phillies' offer.

The Phillies were comfortable with the offer because they stand to gain something: Either Hellickson returns as a veteran anchor for a young rotation, or the team inherits a valuable draft pick at the end of the first round. The Phillies have such few payroll commitments for 2017 that they can endure that kind of investment in an experienced pitcher who could eat innings for a young staff.

But the draft pick, which would be somewhere at the end of the first round in the 20s, is valuable to a rebuilding club. It could provide the Phillies approximately $2 million in additional bonus money to spend on amateur talent. Major League Baseball has placed restrictions on amateur spending, so teams have prioritized all possible ways to increase the pool.

Hellickson, 29, tied a career high with 189 innings in 2016. His 154 strikeouts were a career best. He posted a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts and made $7 million. The Phillies acquired him last winter from Arizona for a low-level minor leaguer.
The consensus best starter available through free agency is Rich Hill, 36, who has thrown more than 120 innings in a season just once in his career. Jason Hammel, a quality mid-rotation arm, became a free agent Sunday when the Cubs declined his option. So did Texas' Derek Holland.
Other pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez, Jaime Garcia, Clay Buchholz could be traded. Chris Sale, one of the game's best pitchers, would be the top trade option for bigger thinkers — that is, if the White Sox shop him.