SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is some drama right out of the gate in this Phillies offseason.
Will Jeremy Hellickson take the money?
Or will he roll the dice and seek the long-term contract that he’d like to have?
Start the countdown. Hellickson has seven days to make up his mind.
As long expected, the Phillies extended a qualifying offer to the free-agent pitcher before Monday’s deadline, general manager Matt Klentak said upon arriving at baseball’s annual GM meetings on Monday.
Hellickson has seven days to accept or reject the offer of $17.2 million for the 2017 season. If he accepts it, he becomes a signed player for 2017. If he rejects it, the Phillies will receive draft-pick compensation when the pitcher signs with another club. That pick figures to be somewhere between 25 and 30 in the June draft, so it would be extremely valuable to a rebuilding club.
Klentak has frequently said he’d be happy with either outcome. He likes the idea of having a veteran pitcher on his young starting staff — that’s why he traded for Hellickson a year ago — but also knows the impact that another high draft pick and an extra $2 million, give or take, in signing bonus pool money could have on the team’s future.
“Both are valuable,” Klentak said in September. “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.”
Hellickson, who will turn 30 in April, went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts (189 innings) for the Phillies in 2016. He made $7 million.
After his last start with the club, Hellickson talked about how much he enjoyed pitching for the Phillies. He was asked whether he could envision himself accepting a qualifying offer from the Phillies and returning to the club on a one-year deal.
“Yeah, I mean, I definitely could see it,” he said. “But …"
Hellickson paused. Then a reporter broke the silence by suggesting the pitcher would rather get a multi-year deal on the open market.
“Yeah, I would love that actually a little bit more,” he said.
Hellickson’s representative, Scott Boras, is at these GM meetings and will spend the next few days gauging whether or not he can land the multi-year deal his client would like to have. The free-agent market for pitchers is weak, so that favors Hellickson. Some industry insiders rank him as the second-best starter on the market behind lefty Rich Hill.
Receiving a qualifying offer can limit a player’s market because the signing club loses a high draft pick. Nonetheless, entering this offseason, 54 players had been extended qualifying offers under this system, which began in 2012, and all but three rejected.