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Diamondbacks interested in Jeremy Hellickson

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The General Managers meetings are under way at the Arizona Biltmore this week, and the first rumor out concerning the D-backs has them looking to address starting pitching.

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Hellickson is a 27-year-old right-hander, who would be under team control through the end of 2016. He only threw 63.2 innings last year, over 13 starts, missing the first three months of the season as he recovered from off-season surgery to clean out his throwing elbow. He went 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA and a 54-21 K:BB ratio. Over his entire career, Hellickson is 40-36 with a 3.78 ERA (that's an ERA+ of 101) and a K:BB of 463-210 in 640 innings. In his second year of arbitration, the pitcher is projected to earn about $3.9 million next season. Other National League teams mentioned in connection with him include the Dodgers, Cubs and Giants.

Hellickson had a couple of very good years for the Rays in 2010-11, with a 3.02 ERA over those two seasons, and winning the American League Rookie of the Year award for 2010. However, that was significantly helped by a .243 BABIP, and when that regressed subsequently, so did his other numbers. On the other hand, he has steadily improved his K-rate, which has gone from 5.6 per nine innings in 2010, to 7.6 last season, and the resulting FIP of 4.15 was the lowest since he became a full-time member of Tampa's rotation. So his true talent likely lies between the over-performance of 2011-12 and the under-performance of 2013-14.

While it would certainly be a stretch to describe Hellickson as a top of the rotation starter, he probably would represent something of an upgrade over the plethora of back-end starting pitchers we saw used this season. Right now, it would appear we have Chase Anderson, Vidal Nuño and perhaps Randall Delgado vying for the fourth and fifth spots, and Hellickson is probably more projectable than those, with a longer track record in the major leagues That would fit in with GM Dave Stewart's expressed interest in adding a proven starter, especially with Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo looking very likely to start the season on the DL.

It's hard to say what the Rays would want for Hellickson. They appear to be in rebuilding mode, which is why they are looking to drop Hellickson and his increasing salary; that would suggest they are more likely to be looking for prospects than established major-leaguers. They certainly do not seem to be a credible destination for the contracts we most want to free up, Aaron Hill and Miguel Montero. However, as noted earlier, Arizona doesn't have much wiggle-room as far as salary goes, and adding another $4 million at the start of November would certainly imply other moves in the works.

Update

Or not. Sounds like we did talk to Tampa, but no indication there was much in the way of a serious discussion.