By JOSH VITALE, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Jeremy Hellickson had been rumored as a trade candidate since the Tampa Bay Rays’ season ended more than two months ago.
Late Friday night, those rumors became reality.
The Rays dealt the right-hander to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for infielder Andrew Velazquez and outfielder Justin Williams, turning an expendable part into another talent upgrade in the farm system.
“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,” Rays president of baseball operations Matt 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.”
Velazquez, 2o, was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year in 2014, batting .290 with nine home runs, 56 RBIs and 50 stolen bases. Williams, 19, hit .351 with four home runs and 46 RBIs between Rookie and A-ball.
The Diamondbacks’ No. 12 and 14 prospects, respectively, are both candidates to play for the Stone Crabs in 2015.
The trade of Hellickson saves the Rays $4 million in salary heading into next season, and it also opens up another spot on the 40-man roster, something the Rays will need as they try to protect some prospects from the Rule 5 draft.
Hellickson, 27, went 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts last season, missing the first half of the season after undergoing offseason elbow surgery.
“Kind of shocked a little bit,” Hellickson told The Tampa Bay Times by phone. “Mixed emotions.”
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