Phillies prepared if Hellickson stays -- or goes

Despite trade rumors, pitcher expected to start Saturday

Phillies prepared if Hellickson stays -- or goes

ATLANTA -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects Jeremy Hellickson to pitch Saturday night against the Braves.

If not, he will figure out something else.

Hellickson remains the Phillies' most likely candidate to be traded before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Contending teams need starting pitching, and Hellickson is 7-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts. He has allowed one earned run in 14 innings in his last two starts, and he has a 2.20 ERA in his last seven starts.

His past few starts have been heavily scouted.

"Everybody is anxious to find out," Mackanin said Friday. "There's a little bit of drama there."

Hellickson is a free agent after the season, so if the Phillies can acquire a legitimate prospect for him, it makes sense to move him.

But reported earlier this week that the Phillies' asking price is very high -- they're reportedly looking for an organization's top-five prospect -- because the Phillies feel they could make a qualifying offer to Hellickson if he is not traded.

The Phillies believe Hellickson would reject the one-year contract, which could be worth more than $16 million. If he does and signs elsewhere, the Phillies would receive a compensatory Draft pick. In other words, the Phillies want a player comparable in talent to the player they potentially could select in next year's Draft.

And if Hellickson accepts the qualifying offer? Well, the Phillies could afford it. They have almost no financial commitments beyond this season. And while the Phillies theoretically have five young starting pitchers that could fill out the 2017 rotation -- Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson -- the attrition rate for starting pitching is high, so the Phillies probably would pursue a veteran starter in the offseason, anyway.

Of course, most of this could be posturing on the Phillies' part.

It is worth mentioning that one option for contenders fell off the board Thursday when the Padres traded Andrew Cashner to the Marlins. The Cashner deal could heat up talks for the Phillies.

"To be very honest, I don't know anything," Mackanin said. "I think it's better off that way. I might say the wrong thing without meaning to. I'd rather not know. I'm not in the decision-making process, as far as who they're going to trade for. The scouts are scouting. The people in the front office make their decision based on what information they have on these other players.

"I would like to think, if we were playing for a pennant down the stretch, I would get a little bit of input on what we need. It's not what I need right now to help win. It's, 'What is the best deal?' So I don't want to know about it." 

But whether or not a trade is made before Monday's Trade Deadline, Mackanin thinks something will happen afterward.

"After the smoke clears, then we'll evaluate and maybe bring up a young guy and maybe make a change in-house, I'm guessing," he said.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. 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.