July 18, 2008

Phillies Pick Up Pitcher For Playoff Push

Not quite Sabathia, is he?

The Phillies acquired righty starting pitcher Joe Blanton from the Oakland A's in exchange for three prospects: Adrian Cardenas, a contact-hitting middle infielder who is the consensus top position player in the Phillies farm system, Josh Outman, a talented and deceptive lefty who has been putting up solid stats in relief in the minors at the AA affiliate in Reading, and outfielder Matt Spencer, a fairly unheralded prospect who looks like more of a throw-in than anything else.

The Phillies were in dire need of a solid starting pitcher to help them as they push to outgun the Mets and Marlins (and possibly the Brewers and Cards in the wild-card race) for a playoff spot given the remarkably sucky play of Brett Myers, (just returning from a pretty mediocre stint in the minors) and the ever-horrible Adam Eaton (enjoying your $8 million, asshole?). Blanton has traditionally been just that, putting up a record of 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA and excellent K/BB ratio of 140/40, but has struggled significantly this year, going only 5-12 on a much improved A's team with a 4.96 ERA and underwhelming 62/35 K/BB ratio. I'm somewhat worried with how Blanton will be able to adjust to the home run haven that is Citizens Bank Park and have a feeling his first few starts will be rough. However, we needed to add a pitcher and I have more confidence in Blanton, certainly, than in Eaton or Myers, or A.J. Burnett, another pitcher the Phillies have been linked with. I'm disappointed we missed out on CC 'Don't Call Me C.C!" Sabathia and Rich "Wish My Bones Would" Harden, but considering how steep a price we paid for just Blanton, we might've had to give up too much from an already depleted farm system to get one of those aces.

One of the positives of this deal is that we do have control over Blanton until 2010, as he's still in the arbitration phase of his career, and given what a cruddy year he's had, he won't be too costly next season. However, that being said, two things bother me about this deal: we gave up our best position prospect (who might've been able to move over to third and hopefully provide our first real talent there- sorry Pedro, I love you and you've got a great glove, but you're not much of a hitter- since Scotty Rolen) and a promising, albeit overrated, pitcher, for a guy who will never, ever, ever, ever, ever be anything more than a solid No.3/No.4 starter. Basically we just added Kyle Kendrick the 2nd in this deal, which, although not bad, isn't the impact player we needed to make a deep playoff run.

I'm not sure whether this move signals that the Phillies think they can contend for a pennant or even championship this year by adding Blanton or whether they're adding pieces early before making a big splash in the free-agent market this summer. However, given that Hamels and Howard are still in arbitration with no end to contract negotiations in sight, I doubt we're going to be big players this offseason. So, the way I see it, the Phillies had every intention of adding a big-time starter to bolster their rotation during the stretch run, but because of their shallow pool of prospects and trade bait and the lack of a big market for starters due to the high number of teams still in contention, couldn't quite pull off the big move they had envisioned. I applaud the Phillies for trying but don't think we're much closer to a title than we were before the trade. Until we can add a true No. 2 starter, the Phillies, even with their big bats, aren't going very far.

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