Rays, Jeremy Hellickson each get fresh starts in trade with Diamondbacks

Jeremy Hellickson, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011, struggled in 2013 and 2014.

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The Tampa Bay Rays receive fresh talent, and Jeremy Hellickson enjoys a fresh start.

The Rays receive names that include promise, and Hellickson enjoys the promise of a new beginning.

Both parties receive what they need, and each side can enjoy another possibility.

The trade Friday night between Tampa Bay and the Arizona Diamondbacks is a win-win for both sides. The Rays receive two prospects, outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez, both of whom are likely bound for Class-A Bowling Green, both of whom Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman considers potential "impact players" in the majors.

Hellickson, meanwhile, can begin anew in a different uniform. This seemed like the logical conclusion for the soft-spoken right-hander who began his career in the majors with such promise. He won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year. He claimed a Gold Glove Award in 2012.

The native of Des Moines, Iowa, seemed destined for big things, a man of few words but potentially large reward.

That was before a rough 2013 season that included a career-worst 5.17 ERA in 31 starts and a demotion to Class A Charlotte for a mental break. That was before the right elbow surgery in January. That was before the delayed return and a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts in the most recent campaign.

Hellickson’s early momentum proved to be like sand in an hourglass, disappearing with time to leave a void.

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"As we thank Jeremy for his contributions to the Rays organization and wish him great success in Arizona, we are pleased to receive two talented young prospects in return," Silverman said in a statement. "They have the potential to become impact players at the major league level, and we are excited to add them to our player development pipeline."

More will be learned in the coming years about Velazquez and Williams. Velazquez, 20, was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year. As a switch-hitter for Class A South Bend, he led the Midwest League with 50 stolen bases, 94 runs scored and 15 triples. Williams, meanwhile, hit a combined .351 with South Bend and short-season A Missoula in the most recent campaign. The 19-year-old closed the year with four home runs and 46 RBI.

But this trade is about what Hellickson didn’t do. There was the assumption that he would play a central role within a rotation that includes other young, promising arms like Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. Then there was the lost momentum. Then there was the puzzling decline.

The landscape changed during it all. Jake Odorizzi’s arrival and maturation made Hellickson vulnerable. So did the addition of left-hander Drew Smyly from the Detroit Tigers after the blockbuster trade with David Price as its crown jewel.

Hellickson never seemed like a proper fit in the Rays’ bullpen, so the question concerning his future turned from, "How much can he do?" to "When will he go?"

That reality shows what kind of toll time can take. Reputations and expectations are fluid. Hellickson went from someone with promise to someone who was considered a logical trade piece, and it’s best that he can begin again in Arizona.

Trades are hard to execute, and judging them can be fickle. The Kansas City Royals’ run to the World Series with James Shields, a former Rays workhorse, has opened an old debate about who won the trade with Tampa Bay that sent Wil Myers to Florida’s Bay Area.

But this Hellickson trade feels right.

The Rays receive possible future depth, and Hellickson enjoys a chance to reinvent himself.

Tomorrow begins now.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.