Earlier in the offseason, rumors arose that the Philadelphia Phillies would sign free agent starting pitcher John Maine.
At age 29, Maine was non-tendered by the New York Mets after spending the last four seasons there; however, he pitched in only 24 games in the last two seasons due to shoulder surgeries and issues resulting from them.
Although Maine would only sign to a minor-league deal at this point, there is always a chance that he could rise up on the Phillies' depth chart and become a reliever or even a starter.
Yes, that's right, a starter.
You're probably wondering, "How could be become a starter if the rotation is full?"
Well, there's a three-word answer to that question: Trade Joe Blanton.
And while Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. stated earlier this offseason as well that he was "not comfortable" with trading Blanton right now, who's to say that Blanton won't be traded later on in the season?
If Blanton does well in Spring Training and during the first half of the season, he could become one of the hottest trade deadline targets this season, which would allow Maine, potentially, to become the team's fifth starter.
The Phillies have been busy reworking their minor league system this off-season since it was depleted from trades of which they received Cliff Lee in 2009 and Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in 2010.
They've signed outfielders Delwyn Young and Cory Sullivan to minor-league contracts with invites to spring training and acquired Albert Cartwright from the Astros. Infielder Michael Martinez was acquired in the Rule 5 draft from Washington.
They've also signed free-agent reliever Jason Grilli and former first-overall draft pick, starting pitcher Matt Anderson, both to minor league deals. The Phillies also have pitchers Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez raring to go, though Ramirez is more ready for the majors than Aumont.
Regardless, the Phillies have been busy this offseason in signing minor-leaguers.
And even though Matt Anderson is one of few, if not the only free-agent starter the Phillies have signed to a minor-league deal this offseason, who's to say that some of the minor-league relievers couldn't become starters or the other pitchers on the 40-man roster aren't starter material?
If a Blanton trade were to occur, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley would be the favorites to claim the vacant fifth spot in the rotation.
But what if John Maine signs with the Phillies, which is a likely outcome?
If Maine is signed, maybe Ruben Amaro, Jr. would be comfortable trading Blanton.
Put it this way: Maine is just a year younger than Blanton and his career ERA and winning percentage is eerily similar to Blanton's. The difference between the two? Blanton is owed a majority of his $24 million contract over the next two seasons, but if Maine signed a minor-league deal with an invite, he could come dirt cheap compared to Blanton.
Let's face the facts: Blanton is a guy that is great to have as a fifth starter in a rotation. There's no better pitcher in the fifth spot in all of baseball. But Blanton is worthy of a second or third spot in a rotation on most other teams in the league; though Blanton will have the pressure off this upcoming season, he is more than capable of being at a higher rank.
If the Phillies want to shed some payroll—regardless if it's Kendrick, Worley or even Maine—a minor-leaguer in their system could take the job and settle into it quickly.
Most, including myself, were surprised that Blanton was even a Phillie for the start of Spring Training.
Unfortunate as it may be, Joe Blanton's days could be numbered in Philadelphia.
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