Report: 'Tainted' Padres deal almost led Phillies to trade Jeremy Hellickson to Marlins

Report: 'Tainted' Padres deal almost led Phillies to trade Jeremy Hellickson to Marlins

Unable to find the right return for Jeremy Hellickson last July, the Phillies hung on to the veteran right-hander, extended him the qualifying offer in the offseason and watched him accept it.

Hellickson, 29 years old and coming off his best season since 2012, will make $17.2 million from the Phillies in 2017.

But, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday, the Phillies and Marlins actually had a Hellickson trade agreement in place at the 2016 trade deadline and it was affected by a separate "tainted" deal made by San Diego GM A.J. Preller.

On July 29, the Padres traded veteran right-hander Andrew Cashner and back-end starter Colin Rea to the Marlins for reliever Carter Capps, former Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart and prospects Josh Naylor and Luis Castillo.

Three days later, the Padres and Marlins agreed to a reworked trade when it was revealed that Rea was injured.

The Marlins, who were in on Hellickson before acquiring Cashner, could have rescinded the entire trade with the Padres. Instead, they sent Rea back to San Diego for Castillo and kept the rest of the trade intact. 

If the Marlins instead chose to rescind the entire Padres deal, they had an agreement in place to trade Naylor to the Phillies for Hellickson, according to Rosenthal. But by the time the Rea-for-Castillo swap had been agreed upon — Aug. 1, trade deadline day — it was too late for the Marlins to do anything with the Phillies.

The result of all this is that the Phillies kept Hellickson rather than trade him for Naylor, a first base prospect and the 12th overall pick in 2015.

How much does this hurt? That remains to be seen because Naylor is still 19 and hasn't yet reached Double A. But he's not viewed as a top prospect at his position despite the high draft status. 

Naylor (6-0/225) has played only first base in his minor-league career. There are questions about his athleticism and tools aside from his raw power. Last season, in his first full year as a pro, he hit .264/.302/.407 with 29 doubles, 12 homers, 75 RBIs, 25 walks and 84 strikeouts in 514 plate appearances.

ESPN's Keith Law did not rank Naylor among his top 10 Padres prospects in his end-of-January list, writing:

"Naylor has huge power and won't turn 20 until June, but needs to commit himself to becoming a better hitter first so the power can play, and first base is probably always going to be a challenge for him."

With Tommy Joseph and Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies already have a pair of promising, powerful right-handed young first basemen. Perhaps Naylor, in an alternate universe, could have been a platoon complement to them down the road.

Instead, the Phillies still have Hellickson, which isn't the worst thing in the world. But if they don't trade Hellickson this summer, they won't get any draft pick compensation because the new CBA prevents a player from receiving a qualifying offer more than once. (The only way to recoup a draft pick for a departing player is to extend him the qualifying offer and have him reject it and opt for free agency.)

So, theoretically, the Phillies will have less leverage in a Hellickson trade this summer than they did last, when keeping him and extending the offer was a possibility and when Hellickson was one of the top available starting pitchers.

As for Preller, this wasn't a one-time thing. He was suspended by Major League Baseball last September for failing to disclose required medical information in a different trade with the Red Sox that occurred two weeks earlier than the Padres-Marlins-Phillies ordeal.

In that one, San Diego sent left-hander Drew Pomeranz to Boston for top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, and one of the reported charges was that the Padres did not reveal the oral medications Pomeranz and other players were receiving.

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).