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As expected, the Phillies made a move to acquire a starting pitcher, and as expected, they overpaid for a mediocre starting pitcher. Sent Oakland’s way were second baseman Adrian Cardenas, left-handed pitcher Josh Outman, and outfielder Matt Spencer. The Phillies received just Joe Blanton, he of the 4.96 ERA and 4.25 career ERA.
The bad news: The Phils gave up a couple good prospects but stayed away from letting go of prized catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald. For some reason, the Phillies also wanted to keep Greg Golson, and they succeeded. Cardenas was roadblocked by Chase Utley at second base, so it was a given that he’d be traded at some point, most of us hoped it would have been in a deal that gave us more than Blanton.
Blanton’s K-rates are really low. Over his career, he averages just over 5 K’s per nine innings and this season, the K/9 is at the lowest point of his career by far at 4.39.
Kyle Kendrick is a good comparison for Blanton because of the low K-rates and ground ball tendencies.
Blanton’s FIP (3.59) is lower than his ERA (4.96), which shows that his defense in Oakland has cost him nearly a run and a half on average. However, the Athletics have the best defensive efficiency (.716) in the American League, and the Phillies are middle-of-the-pack (.696), so if there’s a change, it might just be that Blanton’s FIP moves closer to his real ERA.
The good news: Blanton throws a lot of ground balls — over 45%. In Citizens Bank Park, that’s a great gift to have. He’s a bit on the heavy side but will give you a lot of innings. He’s pitched at least 194 in all three of his full seasons and is on pace to do so once again this season. On a related note, he’s averaged between six and one-third and six and two-thirds innings per start in each of his three full seasons.
The verdict: The Phillies were looking to acquire an impact starting pitcher to give them something to compete with against the one-two punches that the Cubs and Brewers have in Zambrano/Harden and Sheets/Sabathia, respectively. Acquiring Blanton fails this objective, but the Phillies might not be done. The Phillies have been rumored to be very interested in Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett, and they are more likely to be impact arms, though they are riskier and more expensive.
Athletics GM Billy Beane made out very well in the deal, as he usually does. The Phillies gave up a bit too much for a mediocre starting pitcher. Already with one of baseball’s worst Minor League systems, now the Phillies aren’t markedly better at the Major League level and gave up two good prospects. It’s a clear victory for the A’s, but as long as Blanton stays healthy and pitches a bit better in Philly than in Oakland (unlikely, considering the ballparks), then it won’t matter.