More Sports:

July 28, 2017

Hellickson scratched from start ... and trading him no matter the return makes sense

The Phillies moved their most obvious trade chip on Wednesday night. Veteran reliever Pat Neshek is having a career year, he turns 37 in September, and he hits the free agent market in November.

But the Phillies front office has reason to a be a more motivated seller than a year ago.

Why? They have young players ready for more regular playing time, both on the major league roster and at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Neshek's departure opened the door for the MLB debut of rising relief prospect Jesen Therrien, who was summoned to the big leagues on Friday. 

Neshek was a more attractive trade piece than anyone else on the roster, but if the Phils front office can move a veteran piece even if the trade return isn’t overwhelming, it’d still make sense in that it’d open an opportunity for a younger player they need to evaluate. (See the Bobby Abreu trade from 2006 that opened up a spot for Shane Victorino.)

It would be hardly surprising, for example, if the Phillies moved veteran Howie Kendrick prior to Monday afternoon’s trade deadline because the team has a trio of young outfielders who need to play regularly in Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, and Odubel Herrera.

And it was hardly surprising, incoming wet weather or not, that Jeremy Hellickson was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday, less than a half hour before first pitch.

Conveniently, former top pitching prospect Jake Thompson, who was recalled from Triple-A three days ago, was still in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon despite the club’s previous intentions to send him back to the IronPigs rotation after providing the big league club with a fresh arm for two days earlier this week. Thompson jumped in and made Hellickson’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

So where is Hellickson going? That’s still uncertain. But since the Phillies didn’t announce an official reason for his scratch (no injury, weather-concerns, etc.) trade speculation less than 72 hours before the deadline was rampant with good reason.

It feels like a matter of time before we find out where’s Hellickson is headed. And then the Phillies can continue to hand the ball to Thompson every fifth day (or Ben Lively, or Zach Eflin) to continue moving forward with the most important objective of the 2017 season evaluating young talent and seeing where it might fit in 2018 and beyond.

Hellickson, 30, is in his second season with the Phillies. He's 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts.

Hellickson returned for a second season with the team when he accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer in December, bypassing free agency. The Phillies would almost certainly pay the majority of the roughly $5.7 million he's still owed in order to facilitate a trade. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Like the PhillyVoice Sports page on Facebook.