It seemed like a solid plan. Trade Jeremy Hellickson, get a couple more prospects into the organization, and slide the club's top pitching prospect, Jake Thompson into the Phillies starting rotation. Heck, the Phillies even lined up Hellickson and Thompson to pitch on the same day out of the all-star break to make things go seamlessly.
Well, Hellickson is still a Phillie and Thompson is still an IronPig. So, now what?
Don't be surprised if Thompson still comes to the majors in the very near future. With Aaron Nola struggling horribly, the Phillies could now consider sending him to Lehigh Valley for the month of August in hopes that he gets himself straightened out and Thompson could head for the majors to take his roster spot.
Another scenario would be to move to a six-man rotation at the major league level. The Phillies want to limit the innings on their young arms and a six-man rotation would be one way to do just that. It's a little early to make that move though, so it's more likely that they would do that in September when rosters expand.
As for Hellickson, an August trade is still a possibility. Of course, now they would have to get him through waivers, which makes the whole process much tougher. Things are a little murky after that, since Hellickson is a pending free agent, but the fly in the ointment is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out after this season and a new CBA will be negotiated between the players and the union. What happens to free agency? More specifically, what happens to the qualifying offer, which Hellickson would qualify for as things stand now. Will the qualifying offer and the draft compensation that goes with it still exist?
Assuming the draft compensation is still an option, the Phillies would likely offer it to Hellickson. If he accepted, it wouldn't be so bad. The Phillies could plug him into the rotation and possibly deal him next season. If he rejected the offer, the Phillies would get draft compensation from the team that signs him - unless their pick falls within the top 15 in the draft - which would fit perfectly into the Phillies plans for the future. Of course, declining the deal would make Hellickson a bit less attractive, since he would come with the cost of losing a draft pick.
The way the free agent situation stands for starting pitchers, Hellickson will be one of the more attractive options out there for teams. He stands to make a lot of money and could still be very attractive to teams even if they have to sacrifice a draft pick to sign him.
A six-man rotation - especially one starting in September - would make a lot of sense for the Phillies. They could limit the wear and tear on the arms of young pitchers, but still keep them throwing. If Hellickson is still with the club, there would at least be a spot for Thompson. If Hellickson is gone, there would still be pitchers like Adam Morgan and David Buchanan to stick into the rotation to get it to a six-man rotation.
While the non-trade of Hellickson is surprising, in some ways, it also makes some sense. The Phillies set a high price for teams to match if they wanted to acquire Hellickson and in the end, didn't blink. Instead, they simply stuck to the plan, knowing that they will still have a number of options over the next few months.