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Neil Walker, Jeremy Hellickson accept qualifying offers

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates don't have much direct connection to the qualifying offer process this year, but Neil Walker and Jeremy Hellickson's decisions to accept them both at least have some tangential interest to Pirates fans.

Walker will stick with the Mets for one year and $17.2 million in a decision that was likely influenced by his back injury. Assuming he's able to come back healthy, the former Pirate figures to be a good value for the Mets yet again.

Hellickson elected to accept the Phillies' qualifying offer after hearing from potentially interested teams that they feared having to give up a draft pick to sign him. Hellickson's decision is a significant one for the Bucs in that it further reduces the number of strong starting pitchers available on the free agent market, where they'll surely at least try to shop. (The fact that we could plausibly consider Hellickson a "strong starting pitcher" shows how weak this market already was.) Yesterday, I noted that Ivan Nova's agent says his client has received offers in the three-year, $36 million range. I was already skeptical that Nova would be that cheap, and Hellickson suddenly vanishing from the market should raise Nova's price still further as the supply of decent starters shrinks.

Incidentally, Nova was even luckier to be traded to the Pirates than it initially might appear. Not only did he suddenly turn himself into one of the best pitchers on the market, but the trade also wiped out his eligibility for the qualifying offer, since players who are traded in-season can't receive them.