Report: Cardinals covet Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson

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There’s been some speculation that the Rays would make a run at Colby Rasmus should the Cardinals make their center fielder available.  Now we know whom the Cardinals would ask for in return.  According to the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss, Jeremy Hellickson is the pitcher the team most covets in any potential deal.

And for good reason.  Hellickson entered the season as one of the top three pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s very much in the Rookie of the Year race with an 8-7 record and a 3.21 ERA in 16 starts for the Rays.  He might not quite have Michael Pineda’s ceiling, but he could be one of the game’s top 30 starters for a long time.

So, even with Rasmus as a potential return, it’s highly unlikely that the Rays will move Hellickson.  He’ll make barely more than the minimum through 2013, and he’s not going to be a free agent until after 2016.  If the Rays were to dip into their stellar rotation depth in order to upgrade elsewhere, then such a deal would be far more likely to involve Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis.