The Philadelphia Phillies are nearing having to make a decision on whether to issue a qualifying offer to Jeremy Hellickson, but the team's 2016 Opening Day starter seems less than likely to return to the Phillies in 2017 given the lack of pitching depth available in free-agency this off-season.
Whether the Phillies are able to retain Hellickson or not, they will need another veteran option. Aaron Nola is likely to be on an innings limit. The Phillies probably won't push Vince Velasquez's innings and he has a lengthy injury history. Jerad Eickhoff appears to be the rock of the rotation, but it wouldn't hurt the Phillies to have another veteran in their rotation.
I've advocated for declining Charlie Morton's $9.5 million option for 2017 and attempting to re-sign him at a cheaper price, though Morton will likely garner other interest if he's allowed to hit free-agency and isn't a sure thing himself.
Derek Holland of the Texas Rangers, who is coming off a pretty awful 2016 season, could be an interesting name for the Phillies to watch. Though it appears less than likely that the Rangers will decline his $11 million option for 2017, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball says that the Rangers are open for business as far as trading Holland. Heyman has since tweeted that teams are interested in Holland and that a trade could come together quickly, which makes sense given that the Rangers will have to make a decision on picking up his 2017 option soon after the World Series.
Thought he posted a 4.95 ERA in 2016, Holland is a bounce-back candidate when you consider how strong he was in 2013. Holland posted a 10-9 ERA with a 3.42 ERA and a 4.3 WAR (per FanGraphs) in 2013, while pitching 213 innings. Though his career has been plagued by injuries, when he's been healthy he's normally been at least a reliable innings eater. He's thrown over 175 innings three times in his career, making him potentially valuable to a Phillies team that will need innings eaters late in the 2017 season.
Assuming the Phillies either retain Hellickson or add another veteran that they are assured to get at least 175 innings from in 2017, the Phillies could end up with six or seven capable starters in Spring Training. Perhaps that will force someone like Jake Thompson to start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Perhaps if all things are perfect the Phillies could attempt to turn Holland into either a long-man or lefty specialist (albeit an expensive one), like they did a year ago with Brett Oberholtzer.
But assuming that the Phillies won't have any injuries before (or during) the 2017 season is probably foolish, so if the team were to end up with six or seven starters to open the season, there's worse problems to have. They seemingly had that to open the 2016 season, before Morton had a season-ending injury, Adam Morgan underperformed and both Nola and Velasquez had injuries.