Phillies Trade McWilliams for Hellickson

I hate this trade.  There I have said it, it is an absolute gut punch.  From a baseball perspective it really is not that horrible, prospects like Sam McWilliams rarely turn out.  The Phillies took an 8th round pick and turned him into a major league starting pitcher, that is actually pretty good.  McWilliams is just a dream, a dream without limits.  He is big, he throws hard, he may throw harder, he has some feel for pitching, but he is a dream.  McWilliams is 20 years old now and is likely to go beyond short season in 2016.  He is years and years away from the major leagues, and for a starting pitcher that is a journey full of pitfalls and failure.

Here is the scouting report on McWilliams.  He is a 6’8″ RHP who sits 90-92 and can get to 95, the pitch has good movement and plane due to his height.  He has shown some feel for a curveball, but it is a fringy pitch right now.  He has shown little feel for a changeup throughout the season (more of a straight change).  He was going to be in the back of the Top 30 on my Phillies’ list.  His upside his immense, his downside is he never makes it past low-A.  He also experienced some arm discomfort this fall causing him to miss the end of the GCL season and all of Fall Instructs.  The upside is large though, he is a blank canvas to build on, if you look hard enough you can see the makings of a Franklyn Kilome or Tyler Glasnow.

Hellickson is a major league starting pitcher.  He is not a good starting pitcher, but the Phillies need starting pitchers and Hellickson does have some upside.  His biggest issue has been that he has been homer prone (due to a mediocre arsenal), but if you can help him keep the ball in the yard he can be a serviceable back end starter.  Let’s be honest too, they got more for Roberto Hernandez at the deadline than they just gave up.

It is painful that the Phillies gave up a nice looking asset for him, but it is an asset they could afford to give even if it wasn’t necessarily wise.  The rebuild is going to be full of moves like this.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.


  1. Nick M

    Everyone keep saying they could get a free agent who are you signing for 1 year at 6 million? Keep in mind this was a 99 loss club next year. Healthy pitchers similar to Hellickson are not signing cheap 1 year deals with the Phillies. That is what everyone is missing. Hellickson is healthy and a one 1 year deal. That is what is attractive about him. It is going to be interesting to see the type of pitchers that sign one year deals this free agent season and how they compare to Hellickson. (how healthy are they, how good are they and how much they sign for) then look at the teams they sign with. Any comparable pitchers to him that are healthy signing for similar money on a last place team? I doubt it. This is a good deal.

    • nobody

      For me, who cares if they have to overpay a FA pitcher to come here. It’s only money, and that is the strength of this club. So, if they could have spent 10 or 11 millions dollars on a JA Happ type of pitcher and held on to McWilliams, I would have preferred that (even if they had to eat money to flip him).

      • Nick M

        Now you are over paying and eating salary all to keep Sam McWilliams? Come on now…Happ will get a multi year deal most likely. If….if….Nola, Thompson, Eflin and Eickhoff work out than they should be in a position to add a real top of the rotation starter to lead that young group (the free agents that the Phillies will sign will not be that type of pitcher and I don’t want them clogging up a spot.) It is possible that Eflin and Thompson make their MLB debut this year. In 2017 it is realistic to assume that they could be in the rotation (along with Nola and Eickhoff….and I’m looking at Eickhoff as a 4/5. I don’t want to get to carried away with his performance down the stretch. He could be Vance Worley…which for a 4/5 is fine.)

  2. Rei De Bastoni

    Everyone wants to talk about how we could have gotten another FA instead of Hellickson. Fine. But how many more McWilliams’ could we add in just one draft? 4? If he really had that much upside, he would have gone higher than the 8th round.

    And the money saved over a $10mil FA could be put toward other FA’s or the international market. So a $3mil difference to keep McWilliams and get a FA (assuming Hellickson isn’t even better than the FA’s out there in that price range). Is McWilliams worth $3 million? Not without a massive breakthrough.

  3. philabaltfan

    The major problem with this trade is we gave a promising prospect for someone who is not very good. The Phillies strength is their cash position and what is 3 million dollars when we are about $100 MILLION below last years payroll. Not a good first trade for the new regime as Matt stated.

    • G$

      A promising prospect (if you squint) with something like a 10% probability of making it to the majors and a 2% probability of actually being decent in the majors. We always overvalue our high school slotbuster draft picks, but how many of them have actually panned out over the years? Remember Brody Colvin? He was 10x the prospect Sam McWilliams is.

  4. Timber

    If you put any weight in projection systems (I know some don’t), Hellickson’s Steamer projection for 2016 of 1.7 WAR is higher than just about every possible 1 year free agent out there, and on par with or higher than a few of the free agents who are about to sign 3-4 year deals in the $45-60 million range.

    By the way, here’s the current crop of free agent starters who pitched more innings than Hellickson last year AND might be willing to sign a one year contract:

    1. Bartolo Colon, 194.2 innings, 4.16 ERA
    2. Mark Buehrle, 198.2 innings, 3.81 ERA (if he doesn’t retire)
    3. Alfredo Simon, 187.0 innings, 5.05 ERA
    4. Aaron Harang, 172.1 innings, 4.86 ERA
    5. Kyle Lohse, 152.1 innings, 5.85 ERA
    6. Jeremy Guthrie, 148.1 innings, 5.95 ERA
    7. Kyle Kendrick, 142.1 innings, 6.32 ERA (technically less innings than Hellickson, but I’m making a point, and Kyle Kendrick certainly helps make that point)

    That’s a train wreck of starters outside of Colon and Buehrle. There are a few interesting names among the rest of the 1 year candidates, but they are mostly pipe dreams on bounce back seasons and returns from injury. If the plan is to add two starting pitchers this offseason, it’s unlikely you’re getting two decent starters in the free agent market unless you’re going to commit to longer contracts. Trading for Hellickson now means less of a chance you’re scrap heap shopping at the end of the offseason.