Phillies Add Durable Blanton

The Deal
The Phillies relegated struggling starter Adam Eaton to the bullpen with their trade for Athletics 27-year-old workhorse righthander Joe Blanton. Philadelphia shipped second baseman Adrian Cardenas, lefthander Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer to Oakland.

The Big Leaguer
Following the trades of righthanders Dan Haren, Rich Harden and Chad Guadin, Blanton becomes the fourth A’s starter to be dealt in the last seven months. What makes the move especially noteworthy is that Blanton, Haren and Gaudin ranked one, two and three among Oakland pitchers in innings in 2007. Blanton, the 24th overall pick in 2002 out of Kentucky, established himself as a mid-rotation starter in his rookie season of 2005, when he went 12-12, 3.53 with 116 strikeouts and 67 walks in 201 innings. For his career, he’s 47-46, 4.25 with 431 strikeouts and 202 walks in 761 innings, though his career ERA at McAfee Coliseum (3.79) is nearly a run lower than it is on the road (4.78). Despite just average stuff, Blanton offers a full repertoire of pitches—low-90s fastball, curveball, changeup and slider—and extreme durability. He averaged nearly 209 innings per season from 2005 to 2007, and it’s that kind of certainty that made the 6-foot-3, 255-pound righthander attractive to the Phillies. Blanton, who was 5-12, 4.96 in 20 starts at the time of the trade, is eligible for arbitration following the season, as he is after 2009, but Philadelphia can retain his services for two more years before he can opt for free agency following the 2010 season.

The Prospects
Though he was drafted as a shortstop, Cardenas, 20, profiles as an offensive-minded second baseman at the big league level. The 2006 High School Player of the Year, he was making short work of the high Class A Florida State League, batting .309/.374/.444 in 259 at-bats for Clearwater, with 11 doubles, four homers and a 16 steals in 16 tries. Cardenas, the 37th overall pick in 2006 out of Monsignor Pace High in Opa Locka, Fla., missed three weeks beginning in mid-April with lower back inflammation. The lefthanded-hitter has an easy, compact swing that is conducive to stroking line drives with good loft power. Defensively, he’s average at best as he doesn’t cover a lot of ground and his first-step quickness and footwork have room for improvement.

Deception remains Outman’s biggest strength as a pitcher, as batters simply don’t get good reads on his 90-94 mph fastball, his late-breaking slider or his changeup. He started the season in Double-A Reading’s rotation, but he shifted to the bullpen in May. In either role, Outman, a 10th-round pick in 2005 out of Central Missouri State, has been impossibly tough on lefthanded batters. Eastern League lefties hit just .198/.275/.284 against him. On the season, Outman was 5-4, 3.20 with 66 strikeouts, 37 walks and three home runs allowed in 70 innings.

Spencer, a 22-year-old lefthanded hitter, managed just .249/.317/.367 averages in 305 at-bats for high Class A Clearwater. Taken in the third round of the 2007 draft out of Arizona State, Spencer’s deceptive athleticism (he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 225 pounds) allowed him to man center field as an amateur—though he played only left for the Threshers. He hit 94 mph as a lefthander in college, though, suggesting he has the arm strength for right field.

Quick Take
Because Blanton has two pre-free agency years remaining, and because Philadelphia was in dire need consistent innings, Oakland general manager Billy Beane was able to extract two of his trading partner’s better prospects in Cardenas and Outman. Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer have been the Phillies’ only two reliable starting options this season, as Eaton and Brett Myers sport ERAs approaching six, and Kyle Kendrick stands at 8-4, 4.87 while averaging just 5.45 innings per start.

Though Beane may not be done dealing this July—impending free agent second baseman Mark Ellis and closer Huston Street are the highest-paid A’s with trade value—he already has altered the face of the organization in bringing in 20 young players, many of them among Oakland’s best prospects, since the end of the 2007 season. The full list, by position: righthanders Kristian Bell, Fautino de los Santos, Joey Devine, Sean Gallagher, Graham Godfrey and Jamie Richmond; lefthanders Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman and Greg Smith; catcher Josh Donaldson, first baseman Chris Carter, second basemen Adrian Cardenas and Eric Patterson and outfielders Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Murton, Matt Spencer and Ryan Sweeney.

" Trade Central 2008