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The Marlins, who were in on Hellickson before acquiring Cashner, could have rescinded the entire trade with the Padres.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.

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

usa-aaron-judge.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season, breaking Mark McGwire's major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the Yankees dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then, he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

"They kind of told me: `You got to go out there. You got to go out there,'" he would later recall. "First curtain call. I hope it was a good one."

Judge had his second straight two-homer game in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City on Monday. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied McGwire's 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right field seats (see full recap).

Russell makes food run, Cubs beat Cards to near clinch
ST. LOUIS -- Say cheese!

Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs were all smiles after moving within a victory of another division title Monday night.

Russell hit a three-run double in the first inning, then made a food run for a fan in enemy territory while the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2. Chicago can wrap up the division with a win Tuesday against the Cardinals or a loss by Milwaukee against Cincinnati.

Russell helped the Cubs get to starter Luke Weaver (7-2) early, then made some friends out of rival fans. After diving into the stands chasing a foul ball down the third-base line and spilling a man's tray of chips, Russell emerged from the dugout a few innings later with a plate of nachos and delivered it to the fan. Russell stopped to take a selfie before heading back to play shortstop.

"That was pretty entertaining," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said (see full recap).

Donaldson, Blue Jays stop Red Sox winning streak at 6
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist (see full recap).

Rangers fall to Astros, wild-card hopes fading
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.

Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.

Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros (see full recap).

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

BOX SCORE

Before beginning their season-ending six-game homestand Monday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin singled out Aaron Nola when asked about the positives of what is mostly a dismal 2017 season. 

“Nola has really established himself,” Mackanin said pregame. “To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

Nola then looked the part in what was likely his final start of the year, using a sharp curveball to strike out nine over six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“I felt like just the command and getting ahead of hitters helped out this year,” Nola said. 

Returning from elbow surgery that ended his 2016 season in July, Nola (12-11) became the best starter on the team thanks to the development of a changeup in spring training to go with his fastball and dominant curveball. 

“I felt a lot stronger,” the soft-spoken Nola said when asked to sum up his season. “I felt like I was using my legs more and that increased my velocity a little bit.” 

Nola allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 27 starts. His 184 strikeouts are the most by a Phillies pitcher who made fewer than 30 starts in a season. 

“I wouldn’t call him a power pitcher. He doesn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher,” Mackanin said. “But when you can locate your fastball and get ahead with your fastball down in the strike zone and have that kind of curveball and then you add that kind of changeup, now the hitter has three pitches to worry about.”

He struck out 36 over his final four starts and 25 1/3 innings, using his sweeping curve as an out pitch. All but one of his strikeout Monday night came on the curve. 

“It’s been good,” Nola said. “I’ve been able to command it on both sides of the plate and down, which has helped me. I felt like my fastball command was better this year than it was last year.” 

In a rotation in which basically nothing else is settled, Nola gives the Phillies an anchor for next season. The 24-year-old LSU product has a 3.54 ERA and the changeup gives him three quality pitches. 

“It’s been kind of the cherry on top, a little bit, being able to throw that right-on-right,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re left-handed hitter. But when you’re right-handed and coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.” 

Nola retired the first four hitters before Jayson Werth singled and Michael A. Taylor followed by crushing a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 17th homer. 

It was the 18th home run allowed by Nola. But he got into a groove from there. Facing a lineup without Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, Nola held the NL East champions to two runs and five hits with two walks. 

But it didn’t prevent the Phillies from losing for the fourth time in five games. 

Odubel Herrera’s solo home run on an 0-2 pitch from A.J. Cole (3-5) in the fourth was all the offense the Phillies could muster. They’ve managed seven runs in four games. 

Rhys Hoskins is slumping (0 for 4 and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14) and Nick Williams struck out three times. 

“Our bats have gone silent for a few days now,” Mackanin said. 

They still have to win one more to avoid 100 losses, and many changes are possible in the offseason. Mackanin said before the game that “I still don’t know if I’ll be back here next year (see story)”. 

It’s a team that still has plenty of holes and lots of questions ahead of 2018. 

Nola, though, appears to be someone they can rely on. 

“The goal is to have five (reliable) guys on every start. But it’s nice,” Mackanin said. “When Nola pitches, we all expect to win. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s had the arm issues, but he came back from that better than he was before.”