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Philadelphia Phillies: Why a Trade for Joe Blanton Should Be a Top Priority

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 19:  Starting pitcher Joe Blanton #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Four of the NLCS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Citizens Bank Park on October 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Casey SchermickContributor IIIJanuary 26, 2011

The Phillies have put together the best pitching rotation is all of baseball.  And yes, this does include Joe Blanton in the fifth spot.

With the signing of Cliff Lee in the offseason, Blanton was pushed to the back of the rotation and became the fifth starter.  This has added unbelievable value to Blanton and the Phillies. 

Blanton is just 30 years of age and has many seasons left in him if he stays healthy.  Out of 30 No. 5 starters last season, just five pitched more than 190 innings, and only Gio Gonzalez of the A's and Livan Hernandez of the Nationals reached the 200 mark.  Blanton has pitched more than 190 innings in five of his six seasons in the Majors thus far.  Last season was the first time that Blanton did not reach this plateau, because he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career after straining an abdominal muscle late in spring training.

Since joining Philadelphia after the trade deadline in 2008, the Phillies have a .600 winning percentage in Blanton's starts.  Blanton is 25-14 in his 72 starts with the team.  While Blanton's numbers do not make him an outstanding pitcher, they do make him an outstanding fifth starter.

Ruben Amaro Jr. announced last week that moving Blanton is not a necessity anymore, as the team can afford to have all five pitchers on the roster this season.  However, even though they have the top four starters in baseball, there are still some unanswered questions with the lineup. 

Brad Lidge had an impressive finish to the 2010 season by compiling a 0.73 ERA over the last two months of the season, including four scoreless innings in the playoffs.  However, Lidge still is not anywhere near his 2008 perfect season. 

Another question mark is the platoon theory in right field between Ben Francisco, Ross Gload and eventually Dominic Brown.  The Phillies decided to not pursue free agents such as Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez and Jose Guillen.  Using Blanton as trade bait could net the Phillies another solid outfielder who can play on an everyday basis or be used sparingly to give Ibanez, Francisco and Gload a day off every now and then.

Blanton is a very valuable player for the Phillies right now and a deal for him could be pursued by spring training.  If not, watch for Ruben Amaro Jr. to make a deal for him if a team suffers an injury to a top pitcher or to bolster the lineup at the trade deadline. 

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