Oh man, Dodger fans are going to FREAK OUT about Joe Blanton, not having noticed how dominant he was as a RP late last year.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) January 19, 2016
The bulk of the 35-year-old's career has been spent in a starting role, but an exceptionally poor 2013 and a yearlong layoff from MLB in 2014 necessitated a move to the bullpen.
Blanton had a nondescript start to the 2015 season with the Royals and then excelled with the Pirates. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he finished with a 1.57 ERA and 2.11 FIP in Pittsburgh, and his 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings were a career high.
FanGraphs' Neil Weinberg wrote Blanton's resurgence was all the more surprising given the fact his transition to being a reliever didn't result in a significant uptick in his fastball velocity, which in part explains Wade Davis' and Glen Perkins' success in the bullpen.
Rosenthal noted Blanton's contract with the Dodgers indicates he'll remain a reliever in Los Angeles:
Source: Blanton also gets $250K for 50 and 60 IP and $500 K for 70 IP. Structured for a reliever.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2016
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times believes Blanton fills a major hole in the Dodgers' pitching staff:
Blanton will be in a long role with #Dodgers. Effective vs. right-handed hitters, a plus for a team with an very left-handed rotation.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) January 19, 2016
If Blanton can repeat last year's success with the Pirates in 2016, this will be a great deal for the Dodgers. Four million dollars is a reasonable sum of money to pay a better-than-average middle reliever.
And on the days when Los Angeles' starters are forced to exit earlier than expected, Blanton's ability to eat up innings in the middle of games will be an invaluable resource.