Joe Blanton may as well be invisible.
Because when your rotation is as deep and talented as that of the Phillies, the person responsible for taking the ball last is of minimal concern.
A somewhat forgotten byproduct at the back end of the Philadelphia staff, Blanton was already obscured by the shadows cast by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Then came the signing of Cliff Lee, which has led to reports that the 30-year-old will be one of the first to go in what could be a series of cost-cutting moves designed to make ample room for the staff’s newest gem.
Needless to say, with the Phillies investing more than $60 million in the "Fearsome Foursome" for 2011, it was only a matter of time before reservations at the chopping block were made for Blanton, who is owed $17 million over the next two seasons—an extraordinary amount of money designated for a player expected to be no more than a fifth starter.
Maybe that’s why Philadelphia is inquiring about the much older but significantly cheaper Pedro Martinez, who was a surprise contributor to the Phillies’ World Series run in 2009 and could be offered a risk-free contract laden with incentives.
Acquiring a bargain option like Martinez would make trading Blanton, who won nine games and posted a 4.82 ERA in 28 starts a season ago, an absolute no-brainer.
But making the decision to part ways with Blanton may be the easy part for Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Teams have reportedly stipulated that any deal involving Blanton would require Amaro Jr. and the Phillies eating some of Blanton’s salary, so the pitcher’s presence would still linger on the books.
If you’re paying a portion of his salary anyway, wouldn’t it be easier just to retain Blanton, who has started at least 30 games and pitched at least 190 innings in a season five times?
Then again, Amaro Jr. made it clear at the Winter Meetings that the Phillies need to begin developing young players, and a Blanton deal would likely provide the farm system with some mid-level prospects.
Under that scenario, any number of teams would presumably show interest in striking a deal for Blanton, allowing Philadelphia to purse the cost-effective Martinez, insert a player such as Kyle Kendrick into the rotation, or option someone from the Triple A level to replace Blanton.
Boston was reported to be one of the first teams to inquire about Blanton, but that amounted to nothing more than a rumor after the Red Sox indicated that no deal was in place. Next up seems to be the Brewers, which, like all other teams eyeing Blanton, want the Phillies to foot a good portion of the bill.
Several other teams that, according to the Web site MLBTradeRumors.com, could be a fit for Blanton include: Washington, Minnesota, Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City and Oakland. Even Texas and the Yankees could be interested, seemingly in search of a cheap alternative after missing out on Lee.
With pitching at a premium across baseball, the Phillies will field plenty of interest regarding Blanton between now and Spring Training. For now, the team appears to be in a holding pattern, fully content on letting the offers play out so they can choose the best plan of action.
Which, if teams are going to demand the Phillies eat Blanton’s paychecks for the next two seasons, oddly enough could be not trading him at all.