Twins Trade Rumors: Minnesota Interested in Jeremy Hellickson?

Mike Ehrmann

Tampa Bay's starter is coming off of a down season. Could the Twins buy low on the trade market?

A couple of weeks ago, SB Nation ran our second annual Mock Winter Meetings. During those meetings I had a great many trade discussions, one which culminated in swapping Brian Dozier and A.J. Griffin, and then there was a second conversation which I thought, for a time, would net me another starting pitcher. That pitcher was Jeremy Hellickson.

The conversation ultimately stalled when other members of the SB Nation Rays' brain trust decided they didn't want to sell low. While I thought we had a good conversation going when I offered Trevor May, Ryan Eades, and one of Andrew Albers, Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks, Samuel Deduno, and Brian Duensing (who I had not yet non-tendered). It felt like a fair swap for Hellickson, who has three years of team control remaining. As a fly ball pitcher coming off of a bad season who has averaged a pedestrian 180 innings over his three full MLB seasons, I was prepared to still give up two of Minnesota's top 20 prospects plus a rotation filler to make it happen.

It was nixed when the Rays team decided they wanted a "Matt Garza return" for Hellickson: a top 30 prospect, a top 100 prospect, and two other players who fit into their system and who could be in Tampa's top 20 for 2014. Basically, they wanted Kohl Stewart, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, and Ryan Eades. That offer was naturally shot down before it even got off the ground. I certainly don't blame the Rays for not wanting to sell low, but they were holding out for an old fashioned coal-raking.

All of which is a way of saying that Jeremy Hellickson is a type of pitcher that makes a good deal of sense for the Twins to target. Here's why.

  1. He has multiple years of team control remaining, as he's eligible for free agency before the 2017 season. That means he'd be around long enough to see the Twins turn things around, and help lead the pitching staff in that direction.
  2. Even in a down season, Hellickson continued to manage above-average swing-and-miss rates with a 9.6% whiff rate in 2013. That matches his career average. It's also worth mentioning that he pitched in the AL East, where monster hitters make their living.
  3. Hellickson is a pitcher of some solid talent, but coming off of a down season may not cost as much as he would have - had he put up the ERA he posted in 2011 or 2012.
  4. Entering his age-27 season, Hellickson is still in his physical prime.
  5. He's better than any pitcher currently eligible to take a role in the Minnesota starting rotation.
In the interest of a balanced approach, it's worth discussing the potential downsides of Hellickson. His strand rate over his first three years with the Rays was better than 80%, but in 2013 was just 66%. That could go part of the way in explaining the higher ERA, although his FIP and xFIP were lower this past season than they'd been since 2010.

Hellickson is also well-known as being susceptible to the home run. He's given up 70 over the last three years, which in 540 innings means he was serving up a gopher ball every 7.2 innings. His career fly ball rate is about 41%, and with a league-average HR:FB ratio he's bound to rack up a few. The silver lining here is that Target Field can suppress home runs, meaning the homer totals might not be quite so high if he's spending half of his season in Minneapolis.

How would you feel about the Twins trading for Jeremy Hellickson? Would you be willing to give up Trevor May, Ryan Eades (as a PTBNL since he's a 2013 draft pick), and filler - or would you go higher, or lower, or not at all?
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