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The Marlins, who were in on Hellickson before acquiring Cashner, could have rescinded the entire trade with the Padres.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