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

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43 comments

  1. Tyler

    March 12, 2012 08:13 AM

    Should of kept

  2. Richard

    March 12, 2012 08:14 AM

    “they would take as much as $2 million of Blanton’s $8 million deal”

    what does this mean? they’d eat as much as $2M?

  3. wilsonvaldez'shalloffamehat

    March 12, 2012 08:14 AM

    cool beans! I guess a super 4 era low SO/BB Gopherballer with a is above average now!

    even in ’08 when he was good, he wasn’t above average.

  4. nik

    March 12, 2012 09:00 AM

    I don’t care about the predictors for KK, if the new effective cutter to lefties is true, I’d rather look at his stats from the end of last season. Free Kendrick!

  5. nik

    March 12, 2012 09:02 AM

    The luxury tax also includes about 10 million worth of player benefits, something most people don’t account for when looking at just Cot’s totals. There is an exhaustive guide on this by Gelb.

  6. DP

    March 12, 2012 09:05 AM

    I wouldn’t be in such a rush to trade Blanton. Injuries happen all the time to the starting rotation and while the 1st 3 starters are great, I’m not willing to trade away depth if it’s not necessary. Bitch and moan all you want but Blanton is a reliable 4 or 5 starter. Who knows what Worley’s going to do this year and I prefer KK in the flex role (spot starter, relief).

  7. Bill Baer

    March 12, 2012 09:57 AM

    @ wilsonvaldez’shalloffamehat

    I’m assuming you’re trolling, but in the off-chance you’re not…

    Blanton’s K/9 and BB/9 as a Phillie is 7.1 and 2.6, respectively. The league average in that time span has ranged between 6.5 and 6.8 for K/9 and 2.9 and 3.2 for BB/9. His 4.21 SIERA is in the same range as Homer Bailey and Edwin Jackson. The league average ranged between 4.03 (last year) and 4.42 (2008).

  8. Phillie697

    March 12, 2012 10:07 AM

    I personally rather keep Blanton and see what he can do. I still think he’s got at least another good year left in him. I mean, the alternative is Kyle Kendrick!!! No way anyone can convince me that a 28-year old pitcher (he turns 28 during the season) who has been the very definition of replacement level throughout his entire career all of a sudden just learned how to pitch. At BEST KK becomes Joe Blanton, and why would you want to “hope” for KK’s best when you HAVE the equivalent of his best in Blanton? Trevor May is nowhere close to being ready if/when KK turns back into a pumpkin. Scott Elarton and Dave Bush, really??? Is this player evaluation by Ouija board??? I would sooner put Joel Pineiro into the rotation than Elarton and Bush.

  9. Bill Baer

    March 12, 2012 10:39 AM

    I’d have preferred Austin Hyatt over Kendrick, also. Non-tender KK, go with AH. Let’s build a time machine…

  10. Richard

    March 12, 2012 10:43 AM

    If we’re only talking the baseball side of things, then, yeah, I’d much rather have Blanton, too. Besides, I like him and think he’s due for a big season, and it would be irritating for it to be with some other team.

    But the Phillies are trying to stay flexible, budget-wise, as Bill says. And I suspect they have little inclination to re-sign Blanton, so this is their last chance to get anything for him at all. I’m torn, but I can see the logic.

  11. Phillie697

    March 12, 2012 11:41 AM

    @Richard,

    Best way to stay flexible financially is not give $7.5M to Kyle “THE Replacement Player” Kendrick. One bad move does not justify another.

  12. Phillie697

    March 12, 2012 11:53 AM

    @BB,

    I don’t think RAJ got that memo that said “high K rate + low BB rate = good pitcher.” How else do you explain giving Papelbon $60M and Kendrick $7.5M when he’s got Kimbrel Jr. and AH in the minors? Okay fine, Aumont doesn’t have low BB rate, but 13.4 K/9 and you go out and give away $60M on a closer, really?

  13. Nik

    March 12, 2012 12:10 PM

    Phillie697 you would trust a WS contender closing job to a guy who’s barely scratched AAA and couldn’t find the side of a barn just a year ago? How dare RAJ get us a reliable closer.

  14. Pat

    March 12, 2012 12:24 PM

    I wasn’t aware of Gelb’s piece, but it’s definitely worth a read. He concludes the payroll for calculating luxury is roughly $184 million. If the Phils eat $2 mil of Blanton’s salary through a trade, they’d be right at the $178 mil threshold. This move doesn’t add flexibility. It just prevents them from paying luxury tax.

    Tendering Kendrick and trading for Wiggington while knowing that it put us over the luxury tax are just poor decisions. It’s going to cost us Blanton and if the Phils are committed to staying under the tax, it means there’s no replacement forthcoming.

  15. Dan K.

    March 12, 2012 03:24 PM

    In other news: Wow. Worley striking out 8 while throwing 4 perfect frames. I know it’s a small sample size, and it’s just the spring against “just” the Pirates, but it’s good that he’s that sharp. It’s possible he won’t be regressing as much as most people, including myself, have been predicting.

    Here’s hoping.

  16. Phillie697

    March 12, 2012 04:20 PM

    @Nik,

    A reliable closer doesn’t need to cost $60M. Signing Papelbon also has the simultaneous effect of blocking Aumont. By the time Papelbon’s contract is over, Aumont willl be 28, i.e. we’ve wasted his best years.

    If the Braves had thought like you did, Kimbrel will still be in the minors.

  17. Phillie697

    March 12, 2012 04:30 PM

    @Dan K,

    I don’t think “most” people here predicted that Worley would regress; I certainly never heard Bill himself say that. The fear is always there for most of us yes, but I for one wasn’t willing to say that he would definitely regress, particularly because that two-seamer was crazy good. And if you look at Worley’s numbers, his K rate was trending up the entire season.

    There is definitely some cause for concern (just how good CAN a two-seamer be the second time around?), but I can’t really say Worley was built on a house of cards like KK. I hope he can sustain this or perhaps get even better (his slider has real promise IMO), but like I said above, fear is the proper word to describe Worley.

  18. LTG

    March 12, 2012 05:04 PM

    SIERA predicts Worley will regress, and a regress makes sense given his low GB rate and high LD rate. That regression is not so much that he would become an ineffective or even average starter, but rather that he would be around .5 runs worse per 9. That’s only 1 win in 180 innings. So, instead of being worth ~4 wins (using rWAR because it is based on ERA, the thing being regressed) he would be worth ~3. This is regress I can live with. And maybe he won’t regress at all if he figures out how to use his stuff to get more groundballs or increases his K rate, as Phillie suggested there is some evidence for.

  19. nik

    March 12, 2012 05:42 PM

    Please stop with the Aumont = Kimbrell nonsense. Guys with high K rates dont automatically become elite closers like Kimbrell in the majors.

  20. jauer

    March 12, 2012 05:54 PM

    How dare you rather pay a closer 500K than 10 million dollars?!?!? I mean, Charlie Manuel never misuses his closer, so there’s no way you will lose value in terms of how the $50M is utilized.

  21. jauer

    March 12, 2012 05:56 PM

    “Please stop with the Aumont = Kimbrell nonsense. Guys with high K rates dont automatically become elite closers like Kimbrell in the majors.”

    And guys like Papelbon dont automatically live up to 50M/4yr contracts. I’d rather gamble with the low stakes/high reward option than the high stakes/high reward option.

  22. nik

    March 12, 2012 07:50 PM

    Yeah gamble with the high leverage inning guy as your team is fighting for a playoff spot. You’d be the first one crucifying Amaro for not getting an experienced closer if Aumont or Bastardo blew 3 games in April.

  23. awh

    March 12, 2012 09:26 PM

    “Okay fine, Aumont doesn’t have low BB rate, but 13.4 K/9 and you go out and give away $60M on a closer, really?”

    697, it’s a little disingenuous to post a K/9 rate for a relief pitcher based on a one year, 53 inning sample size isn’t it?

    Or don’t sample sizes matter?

    (Hint: If you’re going to try to make a point that the Papelbon signing was excessive, fine. But trying to make the case by using limited data like that only makes people question your seriousness.)

  24. pedro3131

    March 12, 2012 11:19 PM

    There’s been plenty of releif pitchers to post high K/9 rates in the minors only to fizzle out in the majors. If this were 3 years ago, I’d say go for it with the young guy. Frankly though, the Phillies window is closing (our hitting has been decling in health and efficacy for the past few years, and ass good as our pitching has been, Lee and Halladay aren’t getting any younger) and we don’t have 2-3 years to figure out if a guy has what it takes to close.

  25. Phillie697

    March 13, 2012 12:59 AM

    It’s the only 53 innings we’ve got (with him as a reliever), and as with any young player, you need to play them to find out what they have. All of you make it sound like 1) if we chose to go the Aumont route, somehow we would have to sign a binding contract with Satan and stick with him all year even if he sucks, and 2) we will miss the playoffs because we don’t have Papelbon. Neither of which is true. The reason you go with Aumont is because he has huge upside and the position he plays for is of limited importance. Same rationale goes for Dom. What possible reason do we have not to play him? Whose playing time is he going to take away from? Wigginton? Nix? Is anyone seriously arguing that we would not make the playoffs if we play Dom? As it is now, if Aumont IS Kimbrel Jr., we would have wasted $50M for a very marginal or no difference. It is just not prudent use of limited resources to go out and sign a closer for 4 or 5 years for that much money when you have evidence that you might have someone in the minors just about ready to close. This “we have a limited window so we must play proven players” argument is just non-sense; sounds like something Charlie would say.

    I’m not against signing a “closer” if you are that worried about Aumont not making it. I think I proposed this months ago; a guy like Matt Capp would come much cheaper and at less years if you really want someone “proven.” You have to remember you’re talking to a guy who would think twice about paying even Mariano Rivera $10M/yr because I just don’t think ANY closer is worth that much.

    I really don’t know why I keep saying $60M. Maybe I keep thinking about the option year.

  26. derekcarstairs

    March 13, 2012 04:04 AM

    As Gelb explained, included in the luxury tax payroll calculation are about $10 million in player perqs, AAVs for players with multi-year guaranteed contracts, and salaries for all players on the 40-man roster. The Phils are close to the threshold right now.

    I’d rather trade Kendrick and keep Blanton. The difference between trading Blanton and eating $2 million and trading Kendrick with no cash involved is a little more than $2 million.

  27. hk

    March 13, 2012 10:40 AM

    @ pedro3131,

    You mention that the window is closing. However, it might not be closing so fast if they had Papelbon’s $12.5M per year to spend differently.

    @ All who support the Papelbon signing

    Why do we have to assume that Aumont is the only closer candidate in the bullpen? What’s wrong with some combination of Aumont, Bastardo, Contreras (if healthy) and Qualls?

  28. Nik

    March 13, 2012 11:16 AM

    hk, Phillie697 brought up Aumont as our next great closer. Perhaps its because we already know what the other 3 bring and noone is really too eager to push any of them as our closer, not even the anti-Papelbon contingent.

  29. Phillie697

    March 13, 2012 12:00 PM

    @Nik,

    I would be okay with a closer-by-committee approach. It’s not the talent I worry about, it’s Charlie. And before you say it, spending $50M to make up for deficiencies in your manager is patently stupid.

    @derek,

    I would rather have Blanton and KK too, obviously. The problem is, we can find interest in Blanton, but about the only team who is willing to pay KK $7.5M for two years is probably the Phillies. Plus how dumb RAJ would look if he traded KK now and kept Blanton, when he could have just non-tendered KK and kept Blanton.

  30. LTG

    March 13, 2012 01:41 PM

    What’s up with Montanez? He looks like a decent prospect. Good arm, drives the ball, looks comfortable roaming the outfield. Where will he be to start the season? When might he start making contributions to the MLB club?

  31. Mtuske

    March 13, 2012 02:24 PM

    @LTG – Montanez is 30 years old. Not really a prospect

  32. Rob SJ

    March 13, 2012 02:40 PM

    If the Phillies had any interest in getting rid of Kendrick they missed their chance. They felt they had to tender him because they weren’t sure Blanton was healthy. So they tendered him. Then they doubled down with the extra year. So obviously they are not interested in unloading him, it’s wasted discussion. As is the debate about Papelbon. It’s done and over, most would say that $50M for a closer is too much, but he’s here now and at least we can all agree he is someone you want on your team (price aside). You can beat the drum on this being a bad contract if you want, but that will be a long 4 years (just as the next 5 years of “told you so” on Howard will get really old).

  33. LTG

    March 13, 2012 02:50 PM

    Yeah, but he could be a cheap bench player.

  34. pedro3131

    March 13, 2012 09:57 PM

    @hk

    Not really defending the Papelbon deal here, but the bigger problem is the Howard contract and the fact that the core group of players that brought us this wave of success (Utley, Howard, Rollins) and had us at the top of the NL batting stats year after year is getting older and more injury prone, similarly Lee and Holliday are getting older. In 3-5 years they’re going to be marginalized and it’s not going to matter if we spent those years developing a new stud closer because we’re not going to have the same ability to win as we do these next few years

  35. EricL

    March 13, 2012 10:49 PM

    Pedro, the Phillies offense is fine. In fact, after Utley returned on May 23, they were the best offense in the NL. Stop being all chicken-little-like and buying into that silly narrative.

    Yes, when they were starting Valdez and Martinez every day their offense was poor, but from the point where those scrubs stopped being everyday players forward the offense was excellent, and only improved midseason when Pence was acquired.

    And finally, Matt HOLLIDAY doesn’t pitch for the Phils, Sarge. That’s Roy HALLADAY.

  36. hk

    March 14, 2012 12:07 PM

    @ Nik,

    I’m glad that you know what the Phils would receive from Aumont, Bastardo, Contreras and Qualls if they used them in a closer-by-committee approach. I don’t and since I don’t, I still doubt it was worth paying for Papelbon, especially if one result of the signing (aside from the lost 1st round draft choice) becomes that the Phils weaken themselves for 2012 by trading Blanton in a salary dump.

  37. ColonelTom

    March 14, 2012 03:22 PM

    Blanton (with half his salary paid by Philly) to the Angels for Alberto Callaspo. That solves the Angels’ #5 starter problem and gives the Phils a capable sub (both offensively and defensively) for Utley and Polanco without busting either team’s budget.

  38. Phillie697

    March 14, 2012 03:48 PM

    Yeah… Except Callaspo is their projected starting 3B. Trading one starter away for a #5 pitcher isn’t exactly an upgrade for the Angels. And if they thought Mark Trumbo would be a decent enough 3B, they wouldn’t keep running Callaspo out there.

    They may trade us Maicer Izturis for Blanton tho, ROFL.

  39. ColonelTom

    March 14, 2012 03:59 PM

    I doubt Izturis gets them Blanton, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Phils get Izturis. He’s a good glove man and plays a capable SS as well as 2B/3B. He’d be a huge upgrade over Wigginton/Martinez if (when) Utley, Rollins, or Polanco goes down.

  40. derekcarstairs

    March 14, 2012 07:53 PM

    @Phillie697 – Maicer Izturis would be the perfect patch for the Phils’ infield. He’s a switch hitter, has a lot of experience at SS and plays 3B and 2B well. He probably would get at least 80 starts for the Phils.

  41. V fan

    March 16, 2012 10:26 PM

    Trade Blanton for Bret pill of the giants shows steady power on the minors and would be a perfect replacement for Howard and if the giants say they’ll take 13-16 of the 18 million owed to ziti throw him in to as a backup fort the 5 spot even if it men’s throwing a single A player

  42. V fan

    March 16, 2012 10:30 PM

    Sorry for spelling zito ziti

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