In their first deal before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Orioles decided to be buyers, acquiring 30-year-old right-handed starter Jeremy Hellickson from the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, Double-A reliever Garrett Cleavinger and international bonus money.
A pending free agent, Hellickson is 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts. He was scratched from Friday’s start in anticipation of the trade. Hellickson was a free agent last year, when he was 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies, but he decided to accept Philadelphia’s $17.2 million qualifying offer.
“Hellickson is a solid, dependable, veteran major league starter who knows how to win in the AL, whose skill should provide some quality innings for the O’s,” Dan Duquette, Orioles executive vice president, said.
The former Tampa Bay Ray – he was 40-36 with a 3.78 ERA from 2010 to 2014 there– hasn’t been nearly as effective for the Phillies this season, allowing 111 hits (and 22 homers) in 112 1/3 innings while walking 30 and striking out 65.
Kim, who batted .302 for the Orioles last year but became a seldom-used bench option this season – hitting just .232 with one homer in 125 at-bats – is also a free agent at season’s end.
Cleavinger, 23, was the Orioles’ third rounder in 2015 out of the University of Oregon. The lefty appeared in 27 games for the Bowie Baysox, pitching to a 6.28 ERA and allowing 38 hits and 23 walks in 38 2/3 innings this year.
No word on how much the Orioles gave up in international bonus money – which they never spend anyway — but since Kim was owed a couple million for the rest of this season and Hellickson will still receive roughly $8 million on his 2017 deal, the money had to be bridged, at least somewhat, for the trade to work.
On getting Hellickson: Well, Duquette said he wanted to improve the rotation, and he did. Hellickson will take the ball every fifth day and doesn’t give in. He also throws strikes, which will be a welcomed treat. The problem is he is a flyball pitcher and he’s not fared particularly well in Camden Yards: a 5.01 ERA in 46 2/3 innings through nine career outings (eight starts) in Baltimore. He has yielded nine home runs total in those games. So, he doesn’t look like a good fit, at least for the ballpark. However, it doesn’t appear the Orioles gave up a lot for him – a Double-A reliever and Kim, who wasn’t playing anyway. And it’d be almost impossible for Hellickson to be a rotation downgrade.
On trading Kim: This is only a surprise in that I didn’t think there’d be a market for him. And there may not have been. But he was part of a deal, and probably thrown in mainly to balance out some of the money owed to Hellickson. Kim was a great story last year, but the Orioles buried him this year after Trey Mancini emerged as an everyday player. So, the narrative is disappointing – Kim was a great guy who fit in well and worked his tail off – but he wasn’t gonna get much action for this team unless there was an injury.
On dealing Cleavinger: The Orioles had high hopes for the lefty, but it didn’t really materialize and he’s been victimized by the big inning this year. His fastball topped at 93 mph, usually sitting in the low 90s, and, besides a solid curveball, he didn’t have much else to baffle hitters. Sure, he could be another one of those guys that got away, but with the emergence of Donnie Hart and Richard Bleier and the presence of Tanner Scott at Double-A, Cleavinger sure looks expendable at this moment.
On sending away international bonus money: There once was a time I railed on this. But I’m sort of sick of that soapbox right now. The O’s aren’t spending money internationally – which I think is a huge mistake – so they might as well try to gain some value from it. Again, I think the Orioles’ lack of spending for at least mid-level amateurs in foreign countries is a mistake. But that’s for another day – almost every day, really.
On being buyers: I’m not sure this precludes the team from selling off a coveted piece – such as a top reliever — by Monday at 4 p.m. And Duquette did what he said he was going to do, try to get a better starter. I, for one, think this season has sailed on the Orioles and adding pieces doesn’t make a ton of sense. But adding a veteran via trade always makes the players within the clubhouse feel like they still have a chance, so we’ll see.
Bottom line: It doesn’t look like a particularly important move to me, no matter what happens. Hellickson, though he really doesn’t seem to be a Camden Yards kind of guy, appears to be a better option than what the Orioles have been rolling out there a couple times a week. Kim was expendable, simply because he didn’t play, and didn’t flourish in such limited opportunities. Cleavinger seems like a flier, whose upside is Bleier. So, I don’t give this one thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s more of a shrug-your-shoulders ‘huh?’ than a ‘meh’ to me. In fact, it’s primary purpose, at least for now, is to tell us the Orioles are still playing for 2017, which I haven’t exactly endorsed at 48-54 with 60 to play. I shake my head at that sentiment. Think it’s a mistake. But I guess you have to appreciate the spunk. And wait for Monday.