Despite assurances that the Washington Nationals were happy with their rotation options going into the 2018 campaign, rumors of interest in adding an arm were persistent in the last few months, and this afternoon the Nats have reportedly signed veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to a Minor League deal.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick was first with the news tonight, writing on Twitter that a source confirmed that the 30-year-old right-hander will join the Spring Training battle for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation.
A.J. Cole, who is out of options, and Erick Fedde, who impressed again today in Grapefruit League action, came into camp as the most likely candidates to fill out the Nats’ rotation behind the 2016-17 NL Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, with veterans Edwin Jackson and Tommy Milone in camp competing for spots on the Opening Day roster as well.
Hellickson, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles in 2017, with a 5.43 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 47 walks (2.58 BB/9), 96 Ks (5.27 K/9), and a .250/.312/.497 line against over 30 starts and 164 IP in his eighth major league season, would appear to be at least a more reliable option at this point, though he’ll force the Nationals to make a decision with Cole if Hellickson slots in as the fifth starter.
A five-pitch pitcher, Hellickson averaged 90 mph with his sinker and four-seam fastball in 2017, according to Fangraphs.com, with hitters putting up a .279 AVG on his sinker, and a .233 AVG on his fastball, though he threw his changeup more than any other pitch (81.2 mph average velocity, .247 BAA), and mixed in a 76 mph curve (.216 BAA), and 86-87 mph cut fastball (.258 BAA).
Just last week, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN’s Buster Olney he was happy with the starting depth in the organization.
“We like our team, we specifically like our starting pitching, we like our depth,” Rizzo said.
“There are some young players behind A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde and that group of guys, so we feel that our starting pitching is a strength.”
Did the Nationals add to their depth, or sign their fifth starter this afternoon? The latter, right?
Jeremy Hellickson has agreed on a minor-league deal with a non-roster invite with the #Nationals, source confirms.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) March 16, 2018
No firm assurances to Hellickson that he’ll be the #Nats No. 5 starter, but can’t imagine he’d sign with them without being led to believe it’s close to a sure thing.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 16, 2018
So the Nationals get their Scott Boras-repped starter after all. If Hellickson makes the rotation, four of the five Nationals starters (Scherzer, Stras, Gio, Hellickson) will be Boras clients.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) March 16, 2018