Phils add veteran Hellickson to rotation

Righty 'stabilizing influence' for young staff; Minor Leaguer McWilliams heads to Arizona

Phils add veteran Hellickson to rotation

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is fulfilling his promise of acquiring as much pitching as possible before next season.

The Phillies announced Saturday afternoon they had acquired right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from the D-backs for Minor League pitcher Sam McWilliams, who was ranked as the No. 27 prospect in the Phillies' system by MLBPipeline.com. Hellickson, 28, went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 starts last season.

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"This offseason we made it a priority to add a stabilizing influence to our young rotation, and we think we found that guy in Jeremy," Klentak said in a telephone interview. "I think one of the things on top of the obvious is that he's a veteran guy, but still just 28 years old. He'll pitch at 29 this season, so we're excited that he's still in his prime. And more than anything, he's a competitor. He wants the ball. We've talked about building an environment and we think he'll be a very positive influence on our staff."

Hellickson, who won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Rays, can become a free agent after the 2016 season. The Phillies are hoping for a bounceback year from Hellickson before he hits the market, much like they hope for from recently acquired relievers Dan Otero and James Russell.

"I think that's right," Klentak said. "We offer an opportunity to players to come in and get back to the form they've shown in the past. And that's probably true all three of those players. We like what he has done in his career. He's a good fit for us."

Hellickson went 22-27 with a 4.86 ERA in 72 appearances (71 starts) the previous three seasons, but he provides the Phillies a sorely needed veteran presence in their rotation. Free agents Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Chad Billingsley and Cliff Lee are not expected to return, which leaves the Phillies with a host of young and inexperienced starters like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan, David Buchanan and Alec Asher.

Hellickson figures to be the first of at least one or two more veteran starters the Phillies will acquire this offseason.

"We're open to anything," Klentak said. "This doesn't preclude us pursuing anything. We'll continue be open minded. We felt adding him early as a stabilizing influence made sense. I think pitching depth can be built a lot of ways. We acquired one on a waiver claim [Otero], one on a Minor League contract [Russell] and one in a big league trade [Hellickson]. That will continue to be a goal."

The Phillies selected McWilliams in the eighth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He went a combined 2-5 with a 4.19 ERA in 16 games (12 starts) the past two seasons with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.