Joe Blanton Drawing Interest

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has some updated information on soon-to-be free agent right-hander Joe Blanton:

The Phillies would love to trade Blanton and insert Kyle Kendrick into the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Major league sources tell me the Phillies are making it clear that they would take as much as $2 million of Blanton’s $8 million deal.

While the Phillies’ desire to trade Blanton isn’t anything new, especially since Kendrick was signed to a two-year, $7.5 million deal during the off-season, we have a better idea of just how much salary relief they are seeking. Cot’s Contracts puts the Phillies at $167 million without factoring in pre-arbitration players. Saving $6 million would put them $17 million under the luxury tax, which is more than enough wiggle room for in-season transactions. That makes one wonder if GM Ruben Amaro has another big trade up his sleeve. At the very least, it gives the team the flexibility to pull off such a move in July if necessary.

Swapping out Blanton with Kendrick does have its downsides. Of the five projection systems listed on FanGraphs, Blanton’s FIP is projected between 3.98 and 4.11. Kendrick is projected between 4.30 and 4.61. To prorate that over 200 innings, that amounts to an 88-91 run range for Blanton and a 96-102 run range for Kendrick. At the most extreme, the difference between the two is roughly 15 runs, or one and a half wins. PECOTA isn’t any sunnier, projecting a 4.29 ERA for Blanton and 4.76 for Kendrick, a difference of 10 runs over 200 innings. Unless one expects Kendrick to post an absurd BABIP, as he has done in the past, there will be a noticeable drop-off in production out of the #5 spot in the rotation.

As tends to be the case in spring training, some dark horse rotation candidates have emerged. Scott Elarton, of the career 5.29 ERA in 1,065 innings, has looked sharp in six exhibition innings with the Phillies, striking out five and walking none. Dave Bush has an ugly spring ERA, but has pitched better than it indicates, having struck out three and walked none in four and one-third innings, inducing plenty of weak contact. Blanton has, to this date, looked as good as anyone as he currently sits with a goose-egg ERA backed up by four strikeouts and one walk in five innings.

If Blanton wasn’t showing signs of good health and if none of the Phillies’ hopefuls (Elarton, Bush) looked capable of competing with Major League hitters, the team wouldn’t be so eager to move Blanton. It is certainly a good situation to be in, as Blanton is an above-average pitcher with good control and an ability to miss bats (2.7 K/BB as a Phillie). As long as he continues to show that his elbow is back to form, interest in Blanton will build as spring training goes on. Per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports:

twitter.com/jonmorosi/status/178584143737790465

Roy Halladay Next to 300?

David Schoenfield asks the question on ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog. Roy Halladay, who turns 35 in May, has finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting in each of the last four seasons, winning 77 games in that span of time (almost 20 per season). In total, Halladay sits at 188 wins, leaving him 112 shy of the milestone. Schoenfield writes:

As legendary as his workout routine is Halladay’s arsenal of pitches — fastball, slider, cutter, changeup and curveball, all of them plus, none of them straight, all thrown with pinpoint accuracy. This is a pitcher at the top of his game. 

All this makes him a great bet to continue dominating as he pitches into his late 30s. Here are some various average win totals and how close they bring Halladay to 300 wins: 

Six years, 18 wins per season: 108 wins, 296 total (through age 40) 
Six years, 16 wins per season: 96 wins, 284 total 
Seven years, 17 wins per season: 119 wins, 307 total (through age 41) 
Seven years, 16 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total 
Eight years, 15 wins per season: 120 wins, 308 total (through age 42) 
Eight years, 14 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total 
Nine years, 14 wins per season: 126 wins, 314 total (through age 43) 
Nine years, 13 wins per season: 117 wins (305 total) 

Those all seems like reasonable results for a pitcher who has averaged 19 wins over the past four seasons. I believe Halladay will do it, proving yet again that while dinosaurs may be extinct, the 300-game winner lives on. 

PECOTA projects 17 wins this year for Halladay, and then 95 between 2013-19 (Halladay would be 42 years old in 2019), putting him exactly at 300 wins. The list of pitchers who have won 15 or more games in a season as a 40-year-old is slim — there have only 35 such occurrences in baseball history. 13 of them occurred in the 1990’s or later, with Jamie Moyer as the most recent example in 2008.

As Saberists have pointed out many times over the years, pitcher wins and losses are highly variable due to run support. For example, despite a 3.29 ERA over the last four seasons, Cole Hamels has won only 50 games and has a winning percentage barely above .500. Halladay would be better served pitching for an offensively-potent team like the New York Yankees (perish the thought). It would also help Halladay’s chances if he moved back to the American League after his contract with the Phillies expires in 2014, as he would no longer be taken out of games for the strategic use of a pinch-hitter.

Additionally, Halladay can’t afford to miss starts due to injury, serious or otherwise. PECOTA’s long-term projections have Halladay making at least 28 starts through 2019, which is expecting quite a lot. Jeff Zimmerman’s research on injuries at FanGraphs shows that one more year of age adds one percent to a pitcher’s probability of landing on the DL, and an injury-laden year adds eight percent. In other words, getting injured once makes it more likely that you get injured again, for obvious reasons.

If Halladay does get to 300 wins, it will be by the skin of his teeth at the end of his career. The smart money is still on Halladay coming up short. He is a Hall of Famer irrespective of his career wins total, anyway.