In their ongoing quest to be connected to just about every “Are we sure that guy is even an upgrade?” player on the trade market, the Orioles continue to scout Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the Orioles were among the teams watching Hellickson’s Monday start against the Marlins, in which he kept Miami off the scoreboard while only allowing one hit in six innings.
The Rangers were also watching Hellickson, according to Crasnick, and the Marlins themselves - who’ve now seen Hellickson hold then to a run in 14 innings in his last two starts - are “obviously in the mix.”
Hellickson being available as a trade piece has been going on for long enough that he’s had sufficient opportunity to pitch well enough to change the narrative about him. At least if you want to go by ERA, which is an admittedly imperfect metric in trying to assess how a pitcher will do in the near future, Hellickson has really surged in the last month.
Over his last seven starts, Hellickson has lowered that ERA from 4.46 to 3.65. In that time, he’s held batters to a .199/.225/.319 batting line. That is an impressive streak of games. He’s averaging just about six innings per start for the season.
Keep in mind, though, that those recent starts came heavily against a number of MLB’s bottom-tier run-scoring teams. The Marlins, who he just faced twice in a row, are 22nd in the league in runs scored. There were also starts against the Royals (27th), Mets (28th) and Braves (30th). So six of those seven starts have been against demonstrably crappy offenses.
That’s suddenly not very inspiring after all. Still, on the whole, Hellickson, 29, appears to be pitching about in line with his career numbers when it comes to things like batted ball luck (.267 BABIP this season vs. .272 career) and he doesn’t have any red flags like lost velocity. They shouldn’t be too worried about regression in those areas.
And even if Hellickson is due to regress a bit, he doesn’t have to be great to be an improvement. He merely has to be better than the worst spot in the Orioles rotation. Is Hellickson going to be better than Vance Worley for the remainder of the season? That’s the real question.
The pending free agent is making $7 million in his final year of arbitration. If the Orioles traded for him, they’d be responsible for paying a little more than $2.5 million. They have that money already from the Brian Matusz salary dump trade.