Phillies ace Cole Hamels SAN DIEGO, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park September, 17, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Jeremy Hellickson accepts qualifying offer, further damaging free agent market

One of this offseason’s best free agent pitchers is off the market – Jeremy Hellickson has accepted the Philadelphia Phillies’ one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

The 29-year old Hellickson, who turns 30 in April, pitched to a 3.71 ERA over a career-high 189 innings in 2016 with the Phillies. Hellickson struck out 154 and walked 45 on the season, turning in his best season by fWAR since his 2010 Rookie of the Year award winning campaign with the Rays. Philadelphia acquired him in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason.

The starting pitching market this winter is dire, which led some to believe Hellickson would decline the qualifying offer in his pursuit of a multi-year deal. However, he went the other direction after making $7 million last season, and will return to the free agent market next winter $17 million richer.

Philadelphia probably doesn’t mind that Hellickson accepted their qualifying offer. The team had just $29.5 million committed to their 2017 payroll before he accepted, which doesn’t include the $10 million they paid to buy out Ryan Howard’s 2017 club option.

He may not get a chance to accept a qualifying offer next winter – the system could be dramatically revamped with this winter’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

Hellickson is the only player so far this offseason to accept the qualifying offer. Seven players have already declined the offer – Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, and Justin Turner, while Ian Desmond and Neil Walker haven’t made decisions as of yet.

So what does the starting pitching market look like? With Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and Hellickson all off the market, the best free agent options remaining are Andrew Cashner, Jorge de la Rosa, Doug Fister, Rich Hill, Derek Holland, Ivan Nova, Jake Peavy, Edinson Volquez, and Jered Weaver. That’s not exactly an inspiring crop of players, and if a team still needs starters…good luck.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.