It's trading season in Major League Baseball, but unlike previous years, the Phillies aren't likely buying. At better than ten games under .500, they are more likely to cash in their chips than put them all in, at this point. And with a week to go until the trade deadline, it's time to start thinking about who the Phillies can trade, and what they might get in return.
While the most valuable piece the Phillies have is Cole Hamels – who could get locked up to an extension before month's end – the Phillies need to consider moving fellow starter Joe Blanton, who is in the last year of his contract. And even though Cole may have made his last start with the Phillies, no one seemed to notice that Blanton – who allowed three runs over eight innings in Sunday's win versus the San Francisco Giants – could be pitching elsewhere next week.
Early on in 2012, the right-handed veteran was looking every bit like the player the Phillies hoped they traded for during the 2008 season: A durable starter who could provide quality innings at a cheap cost. And through the middle of May, he did just that.
In his first seven starts, Blanton had a 2.81 ERA in 48 innings pitched, with 35 strikeouts and seven walks. He wasn't dominating the opposition, but he was controlling his pitches and not allowing walks to kill him like they had in past seasons.
Then, things got rough. Over his next five starts, he had a 9.91 ERA in 26.1 innings, as he allowed five or more earned runs in five straight starts, as many thought that Blanton was turning back into the proverbial pumpkin.
It wasn't too long before he got back on track, and over his next seven starts – leading up to Sunday's game in Philly, he notched a 3.68 ERA in just over 50 innings of work, giving him a 4.66 ERA in 19 starts over the course of the season, with a 7.7 K/9, with a National League leading strikeout-to-walk rate of 6.35. Not too shabby.
And much like the Phillies in 2008, there are a number of teams out there in need of some starting pitching depth as they head into the final months of the season. Although Blanton isn't going to set the world on fire a la Cliff Lee in 2009, he'll provide a nice insurance policy for a team needing an extra arm down the stretch.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Halos have a fine 1-2 punch between C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren's return to health makes their rotation a definite strength, but RHP Ervin Santana and his 6.00 ERA are the weak link for the surging A.L. West team.
Washington Nationals: Their pitching staff is leading the National League in ERA (3.27), but with Stephen Strasburg's inning limit fast approaching, the Nationals might be in need of some solid depth to get them through the rest of the regular season.
Atlanta Braves: Despite being on the heels of the league-leading Washington Nationals, the Atlanta Braves could sure use some more pitching. And with the rumored deal for Chicago's Ryan Dempster having fell through, Blanton could be a nice consolation prize for the N.L. east team.
San Francisco Giants: You'd think that a pitching staff that consists of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner wouldn't need any help, but you'd be wrong. While Cain and Bumgarner are their usual stellar selves, Lincecum (5.72 ERA) is having the worst season of his career, and Barry Zito is a ticking time bomb just waiting to give up seven runs over three innings.
Cleveland Indians: The Tribe is right in the thick of things in the American League, and three of their starters have an ERA over 5.00.
Chicago White Sox: Remember when Philip Humber threw that perfect game in April? Well, he's got an ERA of 7.55 in 12 starts since, and with two months to go, he figures to make at least eight more starts. Not a happy thought.
Toronto Blue Jays: Pretty much everyone in their rotation is banged up or just plain bad. Heck, they traded for former Phillie J.A. Happ last week and that was thought to be an upgrade.
As you can see, there is no shortage of teams out there that could conceivably use the services of the 31-year-old righty. He isn't going to fetch a huge return in a trade, but at this point, it's about maximizing value for players, even if it means getting rid of them for a prospect or two.