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Analysis: Blanton Not The Right Guy

Throughout the day it seemed evident the Phillies were closing in on a trade for Joe Blanton. By the end of the day, I felt it was a matter of days before a deal came down. It came much quicker. Billy Beane traded Blanton to the Phils for infielder Adrian Cardenas, pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer.When Blanton was brought back into the thick via Jim Salisbury, I said the Phils shouldn’t make the deal for him, no matter what they’d give up. Now that it’s done, I feel even worse.

No, I don’t like this deal.

First off, the prospects. Cardenas, a 20-year-old middle infielder, was hitting .310/.375/.447 for A+ Clearwater. Baseball America rated him the Phils’ No. 2 prospect. Most of all, besides Lou Marson, he was the only position prospect you could really bet on to make an impact in the Major Leagues.

Outman was mishandled, moved from a starter to a reliever to supposedly slot into a LOOGY role in the Majors. He never made it. This year in Reading, Outman went 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA, 66 strikeouts and 37 walks. A deceptive lefty, he represented something the Phils clearly lacked in the farm system.

Spencer was a low-end prospect who has struggled in A+ this season. His inclusion would’ve been worth it as the No. 2 man in the deal. The Phils gave up too much. Cardenas is potentially a solid starting infielder in the Majors; Outman should find his niche in the back end of some rotations.

Now, if this was a package for Matt Cain, I’d be salivating over it. But Blanton? What has he proven?

In 2007 he had his best year, going 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA and a 106 ERA+. His rookie season was also very strong. But his other two seasons thus far have been poor. In 2006 he had an ERA+ of 92, maybe good enough as a No. 4 starter. And this year he’s been utterly bad, matching Adam Eaton’s ERA+ of 77. He may represent an upgrade over Eaton, but the Phils don’t need just an upgrade over Eaton.

I’ve written the Phils need a pitcher who can go deep into games, dominate most teams and line up against other No. 2 starters in key games. Does Blanton (with his 6 IP, 3 ER starts) do such a thing? No. He’s Kyle Kendrick. He’s Jamie Moyer. He’s just another back piece.

Sure, there’s the hope Blanton grabs hold of National League competition. But in three starts against the NL he has a 10.29 ERA. Throw out his dominant start against the Phils, and he has given up 15 runs in seven innings against the Giants and Diamondbacks, two poor offenses. So that doesn’t bode well.

I’ve heard people point to Blanton’s second-half success. For his career, Blanton has a 4.05 ERA in the second half, including a 4.82 ERA in September and October. And with the A’s, Blanton has pitched in meaningful September and October games. Yeah, this doesn’t bode well either.

This season he’s pitched 83.2 innings at spacious Network Associates Field for an ERA of 4.63. Anything good out there? He has pitched well at U.S. Cellular Field and at Safeco Field. So there’s hope yet.

Joking aside, it’s hard to find a silver lining with Blanton, and it’s especially hard to like this deal when the Phils gave up a top prospect, plus a potentially solid pitcher. Yes, we all know the credo is “win now,” but as I wrote before, a deal like this doesn’t help much. Blanton isn’t much of an upgrade over Eaton, and really, he’s probably as effective as Brett Myers. He’s false hope. He’s a move to make a move. He’s a prayer. And he’s Adrian Cardenas and Josh Outman.

I’ll eat my words if Blanton rips off a string of eight-inning, one-to-two-run efforts. I’ll eat my words if this guy shows up and adds that elusive No. 2 starter to the rotation. But this move has me sliding my spoon back into the drawer.

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