The most obvious impact is salary. MLB Trade Rumors projected Hellickson to earn $6.6 million in arbitration this year, and the team no longer has to pay that. It's not necessarily that bad of a deal for the Phillies, considering Hellickson is pretty close to average for a starting pitcher (Career ERA+ of 98). He'd probably have got that much or more as a free-agent, had we non-tendered him. But from Arizona's point of view, it's money we didn't need to spend, with younger, cheaper alternatives who should be able to deliver around the same level of production, with significantly better upside [Hellickson is now a full three seasons removed from an ERA+ above 100]
The money thus saved, can now be funneled towards other areas, most likely funding a front of the rotation starting pitcher. Hellickson was slated to be the most expensive pitcher on the Diamondbacks roster for 2016; so let's take a look at what remains on the books, and what will be left over for enhancements. Here are all the players who'll be earning significantly more than league minimum for Arizona in 2016 [arbitration estimates are in italics, and come from the MLBTR page linked above]
- Aaron Hill - $12 million
- Yasmany Tomas - $7.5 million
- Paul Goldschmidt - $5.88 million
- Brad Ziegler - $5.5 million
- A.J. Pollock - $4.3 million
- Welington Castillo - $3.6 million
- Rubby De La Rosa - $3.2 million
- Patrick Corbin - $2.3 million
- Daniel Hudson - $2 million
- Josh Collmenter - $1.825 million
- Randall Delgado - $1 million
- Matt Reynolds - $800K
That's a total of $49.905 million for 12 players. Adding 13 more at league minimum of $507,500 [that was the amount in 2015 - the figure for 2016 hasn't been announced yet, but is based on the CPI, which has actually gone down since last year, so no increase may occur] gives us a 2016 Opening Day payroll for the Arizona Diamondbacks of $56.5 million to this point. Obviously, the financial elephant in the room - more of a woolly mammoth, actually - is Aaron Hill's contract, which represents more than 20% of our total salary commitment. If we could get someone else to take that off our hands, it would be helpful.
The other half of the equation is, what is our actual 2016 salary cap? Most reports have us somewhere around the $100 million mark, which would leave the team with $43.5 million to spend, across the board. With virtually all position spots apparently set and locked in [presuming Chris Hermann is indeed the backup catcher]. it appears that can all be rolled into acquiring a pair of starting pitchers, and should be plenty for that purpose. Indeed, discussion that we're out of the market for any big names might be a bit premature, with even a $25 million pitcher fitting into that budget.
From the SnakePit's point of view, the departure of Hellickson doesn't make any significant difference, because the vast majority did not want him anywhere near the rotation, as he came in tenth when we we polled readers. Still, I previously noted that being Stewart's first acquisition perhaps gave him a +2 on his saving throw to stay here, but he appears to have failed that. Right now, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray appear to have slots, and while Hellickson's departure does open up a spot for a young pitcher, if we do want to add two major-league starters, as Ken Rosenthal reported, that would leave only one spot for Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair, De La Rosa and everyone else.
However, this is where I insert the usual reminder that virtually no-one ever goes through the season with five starters, and the sixth spot in the rotation will likely be every bit as important as the first five [in 2015, we had 37 starts made by players outside Arizona's front five] So, mourn ye not for the young pitchers, because they will get their chances next year. How that occurs, and what they do when their time arrives, is unknowable. I think it's kinda nice to be in our position: even if we fail miserably at getting anyone else, I wouldn't be devastated if the last three spots in the rotation were Bradley, Blair and De La Rosa. Again, there's upside in buckets.
On that basis, the departure of Hellickson was necessary to open up a rotation and roster slot, but it was such an obvious move, I don't really feel management deserves much credit, beyond actually getting a player back, rather than a straight non-tender. It's a start, but it's like playing P-K4 as the opening play of a chess game - things could still go in any direction from here on, as subsequent moves develop. At the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious, ending up with David Price and Kenta Maeda in the rotation, will create a totally different beast from one featuring this year's models of Bronson Arroyo.