The Phillies' 2017 roster continues to come together.
The team added a hitter to its lineup with the acquisition of veteran infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick on Friday and now has its opening-day starter back in the fold.
Jeremy Hellickson passed on free agency and accepted the team’s offer of $17.2 million for one year Monday. He is now on the roster for 2017. The Phillies made the signing official just after Monday's 5 p.m. deadline.
Hellickson, who will turn 30 in April, was the Phillies’ opening day starter in 2016. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts (189 innings) and made $7 million.
The right-hander receives a huge raise for 2017 thanks to baseball’s free-agent compensation system.
The Phillies have placed a premium on building through the draft and would have been in position to gain a high draft pick (possibly as high as No. 25 overall) had Hellickson opted for free agency. To get that pick, however, the team had to make Hellickson a guaranteed offer of $17.2 million for 2017, knowing that there would be no draft pick if Hellickson took the offer and returned to the club.
In September, general manager Matt Klentak said he would be pleased with either outcome.
“Both are valuable,” the GM said. “For the same reason Jeremy Hellickson was valuable to us this year, Jeremy Hellickson or a player like that could be valuable to us again next year. The draft pick at the end of the first round has a real, measurable, tangible value.”
Klentak entertained trade offers for Hellickson in July but exercised restraint because he did not receive an offer he liked and believed the rebuilding team could get more value for Hellickson via free-agent draft pick compensation. The strategy did not pay off.
Though the Phillies did not pick up an extra, high draft pick, they still have their regular first-round pick at No. 8 overall in June.
On the upside to all this, the Phillies have a veteran presence — and valuable innings — returning to lead a young rotation, albeit at a high, one-year price. The Phillies, who have shed all of their big, long-term contracts, say they are undaunted by this because they have ample payroll flexibility now and in the coming years.
Had Hellickson opted for free agency, Klentak probably would have had to go out and acquire a starter to replace some of the innings the pitcher gave the Phillies last season.
At the general managers meetings last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, several executives offered the opinion that Hellickson could garner $50 million over four years on a weak free-agent market. However, any team that signed Hellickson would have had to forfeit its first- or second-round draft pick in June and the pitcher saw that as a potential drag on his market, thus leading to his decision to take the Phillies' offer.
"I was leaning toward declining it last week," Hellickson told MLB.com. "But then I talked with (agent Scott Boras) ... The teams he talked to said I was at the top of their free-agent list, but they were reluctant to give up a first-round pick."
Hellickson will be eligible for free agency again after next season. He also could once again be a trade candidate in July, though his salary won't be as easy to absorb for some teams as it was this past July.
The Phillies acquired Hellickson from Arizona a year ago for pitcher Sam McWilliams, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher who made 15 starts at the Single A level in 2016. McWilliams was an eighth-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2014.