Joe Blanton Is Sticking Around

The Phillies agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Joe Blanton today. The salary breakdown is reportedly $7 million this season and $8.5 million in each of 2011 and ’12 for a total of $24 million.

There are obviously going to be some people talking about the Phillies’ trade of Cliff Lee, primary for financial reasons, and then subsequent retention of Joe Blanton. Cliff Lee makes $9 million this year, just $2 million more than Joe Blanton will be paid. Obviously Blanton now comes with a three year commitment while Lee is on just a single year and is destined for a big payday next winter. I still think I would have held onto Lee and gone with a Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee front of the rotation.

Focusing on Blanton, though, he has consistently been a slightly above-average pitcher, aside from his very good 2007 campaign in which he really limited the walks. CHONE projects some improvement in Blanton’s home run rate, driving his FIP to the low 4s, but given the ballpark that he calls home, I am not so sure that regression is going to come. Blanton is still young, having just turned 29, so his contract only covers the age 29-31 seasons.

The first year of the contract was to be an arbitration season, so from Philadelphia’s perspective they are paying for about 2.8 market seasons of Joe Blanton. Given roughly a 2.5-win projection, I would have called a three-year deal fair at around the $26 to $28 million mark. Coming in at $24 million strikes me as a win for the Phillies, though not by so much as to make Joe Blanton and his agent the butt of any jokes.

In fact, given the short term of the deal and Blanton’s youth, he gets to re-hit the market at age 31, still enough time to land another big money contract. All in all, and from a strict vacuum, I like this deal for both sides. I just still don’t get why it seems like the Phillies chose Blanton over Cliff Lee.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


64 Responses to “Joe Blanton Is Sticking Around”

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  1. 92-93 says:

    “I just still don’t get why it seems like the Phillies chose Blanton over Cliff Lee.”

    They didn’t choose Blanton over Lee. They wanted Roy Halladay because they could extend him long-term on a reasonable deal (as opposed to Lee), but they didn’t want to decimate their farm system to get him. They figured the only way to do this was to trade Lee for a package of prospects that would help offset the ones going to Toronto for Halladay. This obviously couldn’t have been accomplished by moving Blanton. In reality the Phillies chose Halladay over Lee.

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    • DKulich44 says:

      Draft pick compensation… even if they held on to Lee, the Phillies would get 2 draft picks for letting him go. Two first round draft picks could possibly be equal to the value they got in Aumont, Ramirez, and Gillies. Unless each of those ends up hitting their absolute ceilings. The Phillies could have realistically had their cake and ate it, instead of flipping Lee to the first team they could.

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      • bflaff says:

        The timeline for the 3 picks the Phils got for Lee is far more accelerated than 2 compensation picks they’d get if Lee walked after 2010. (And by the way, there’s no guarantee at all that these two picks will be any better, as players, than what Philly got from Seattle. Keep in mind that Aumont was a #1.)

        So… 3 picks who start this year in AA, setting themselves to be potentially available to the big league side as minimum wage replacements next year, versus two complete unknowns who won’t even be drafted until 2011, and who realistically won’t be ready to contribute until 2013. (And that’s a pretty optimistic assumption, considering that the Phillies, picking at the bottom of the round, probably aren’t getting Matt Wieters, ready now types with those picks.)

        The fact that Philly’s payroll situation is already a problem, and one that’s only going to get worse as the rest of their core gets past their arb years, means that cheap players who can step in soon is much better for the Phils than two guys who won’t be ready until long after they’re needed. The scenario with Seattle and Lee gives the Phils a much more reliable plan for the future than dice rolling on doing nothing to help the milb system, hoping you can muddle through with the thin talent pool that’s still there.

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    • JayCee says:

      Unless my memory has failed me, it was not a 3-team-trade but, instead, two 2-team trades. The Phillies chose to trade Lee for prospects. Again, unless my memory is bad here, epic fail for your post.

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    • The A Team says:

      It’s clear that the Phillies intention was not to cut cost but to retain talent. They did a very poor job accomplishing this. On the face of their initial 1 year deals, Lee and Halladay had identical value. The reason they were forced to trade down was because Halladay was willing to accept such an incredibly reduced cost contract. I would have been happier if the Phillies could have managed to get Triunfel in that deal instead of one of the other pieces.

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      • Steve says:

        But they weren’t “forced” to trade down. That’s the point. They could have simply NOT traded Lee and still added Halladay.

        Then you just trade Blanton and look for a Blanton-replacement next winter.

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      • JayCee says:

        Steve is correct, of course.

        Joe Blanton for one year for $7 million from arbitration is worth more than, say, Vicente Padilla for one year for $5. Blanton with his arbitration award could have been unloaded for something more than a bag of balls. I understand there are Phillies fans who want to jock the Phillies, but the false claim the Lee trade was a part of the Halladay trade is getting a bit old.

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    • Jason B says:

      re: picking Blanton over Lee:

      *Big Joe opens a Valentine’s card with a picture of a train on it, and looks up at Amaro* You…choo-choo-choose me?

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    • chuckb says:

      whether or not you agree with this comment, I fail to see why it warrants 10 “thumbs-downs”. It’s a valid comment and is supported. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the comment system.

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  2. vivaelpujols says:

    They didn’t chose Blanton of Lee. They chose Blanton + prospects over Lee. Lee – Blanton is probably only 3 WAR next year (which is a lot, but still). They wouldn’t have been able to sign Lee to a long term deal and it’s very likely that the prospects they got back are worth more than 3 WAR in one year.

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  3. Everett says:

    Don’t forget the draft picks. Its actually Blanton + prospects over Lee + draft picks.

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    • JayCee says:

      And don’t forget the optionality.

      IF somehow Philadelphia were to crash next year, they could trade Lee at the deadline for a lot of value.

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      • james says:

        ok… so then it’s Lee + draft picks (or prospects)… We can go hypothetical all you want here and say what happens if Lee blows his arm out from all the innings he’s been throwing, tweaks his knee bunting or reverts to Cleveland 2007 and then they get squat AND don’t have Blanton.

        I don’t think they got enough from the Mariners for Lee, but let’s not go crazy here. The Phillies look a lot better with many years of Halladay and Blanton than they did with just one more of Lee. And if you don’t think those were the options… you just don’t understand how baseball teams are run.

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    • hk says:

      There are also financial considerations that must be added to the Blanton + 3 prospects over Lee + 2 draft picks equation. The first is that Blanton will make $2M less than Lee in 2010. The second is that, by choosing prospects, who’ve already received their signing bonuses, over draft picks, the Phils save money by not having to sign the draft picks.

      Although I disagree with the course of action that the Phillies chose, I do understand their thought process (rebuilding the farm system with players who are close to being ready and saving some money).

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  4. 92-93 says:

    The draft picks are too far away for the FO’s liking. Hamels, Howard, Rollins, & Ibanez are only signed through 2011, so it’s possible they want the system to be able to replenish itself if need be. Aumont & Gillies both have very solid seasons as 20 year olds at high A, and represent surer things than draft picks likely out of the Top 20. Granted I’d still like to think they could have gotten more for one year of an affordable ace.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      Hamels first came up in mid-2006. He’s controlled by the Phillies through the 2012 season.

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    • bflaff says:

      RAJ said all 3 guys they got from Seattle would start the year in AA, so they’re definitely closer to helping than 2 comp picks in 2011.

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  5. Jimbo says:

    I dunno, having a 1-3 of Halladay, Hamels and Blanton for a few years isn’t that bad. Considering the relative value of it, the return on Lee, and saving $2M in year 1…I understand the business of it. Also understand the fans’ disappointment of not seeing Hallady, Lee, Hamels give the bullpen three days rest on occasion.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      The return they got on Lee was quite dismal– basically a handful of C+ prospects.

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    • Jimbo says:

      Wanted to add that as a baseball fan, I’m disappointed too. Cuz Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton would easily rival the Yankers top 4. Not many teams have that.

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  6. AK707 says:

    You have to figure that the Phils prefer the security of slightly above average for three years to outstanding for one. The prospects are probably a wash, because even if Aumont and Gilles are ready by next year, they both only ever look to be again “average to slightly above average.” A first round pick wouldn’t have all the comfort and security of a prospect with a minor league track record, but would sure be shinier. The bottom line: they didn’t get can’t-miss prospects for Lee, but gave up better to get Halladay. The potential of winning a WS in 2010 with trio of aces at the top should outweigh worrying about getting average pitchers on the mound in 2011.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Phillies also got Ben Francisco in the Lee deal. Of course he is no star, but should be factored in here somewhere.

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      • NEPP says:

        Considering he’ll likely be their starting RF next year after Werth leaves, that definitely needs to be factored in. Sure, he just a bit above replacement level but he’s cheap.

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      • The A Team says:

        I think “likely” is quite an overstatement, he’s probably plan D or E

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      • NEPP says:

        Well, they’re tapped out budget wise and he’s a league average/slightly above average corner OF on the roster.

        I’d say its a bit higher than Choice D or E.

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      • arsenal says:

        domonic brown says hi.

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      • NEPP says:

        Dom Brown likely won’t be ready to start on a playoff level team in 2011. He’ll have a good shot at making the roster as a 4th OF but he’ll be starting this year in AA Reading. He’s still quite raw defensively.

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  7. bossss says:

    People seem to forget we didn’t really have to give up that much for Lee and alot of people like our return better then we gave up plus the value of him helping us make the world series which made the organization a ton of money. And it never was a Lee and Halladay thing it was well if we move Lee we can afford to trade for halladay and they went with it.

    Also I dont want people to think this is spam but I’m in a contest on philly.com to win a 90,000 wedding competing against less than 500 couples. Me and my fiancee are in the top 50 and would appreciate anyone who votes for us.
    heres the link:
    http://philly.upickem.net/engine/Details.aspx?contestid=10465&pagetype=VOTING&SubmissionID=2620967

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  8. Steve says:

    barring injury, Halladay and Lee basically guarantees a trip to the World Series. there is no NL team that can match up with that.

    i kindof understand the reasoning behind these moves, but i don’t like it. keeping Lee gives them the very best chance to win the 2010 World Series.

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  9. JayCee says:

    I’m confused by the role played by sabremetrics on a guy like Blanton.

    Blanton is the prototype of an “innings-eater.” From the perspective of a fan, his individual innings are quite mediocre, and with high variability. But he’s a big guy with an easy motion, and he’s healthy.

    Do the metrics somehow factor this in when they compute statistics akin to “WAR”? Are injury histories and durability factored in?

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    • don says:

      Phillies also locked up Victorino for 3yrs/$22M, which seems like a pretty good deal especially if his bad range in Center last year was an aberration.

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    • The A Team says:

      WAR factors in his on-field contributions, so yes they consider that he pitches a lot of innings and remains healthy.

      Projections of WAR also consider his previous health record.

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  10. Rut says:

    I’ve got mixed feelings on all of these Phillies moves. I think I would have preferred for the Phillies to go all in in 2010, rather than to hedge their bets that they can compete for a few years, primarily because the core is aging/leaving. Werth and Howard are both gone after their contracts expire (after 2010 and 2011 respectively). Rollins was dreadful the first half last year, and though he still has a few good years in him, he’s not a star anymore (if he ever was). Also, who knows what he will think he’s worth when he’s due up for his next contract after the 2011 season. Ibanez is an enigma, not sure the geriatric can put up numbers like that again (look at that UZR!). Chase Utley will wear a Phillies uniform till the day he dies. Then I remember how the Phillies pitchers, other than Lee, looked pretty bad in the WS last year and think, “So even if we were to get there again we haven’t improved much.”

    BUT, you have to remember Cole Hamels had an off year with his BABIP and FIP indicating he was quite unlucky. Also, Blanton was misused during the WS (and playoffs) as a reliever, something he had very little experience doing. Many will recall that he was quite solid in the 08 playoffs and WS. So, perhaps he can be effective again, so long as Charlie doesn’t change his role around too much. Also, Halladay is at least a little bit better than Lee by all accounts.

    Who knows? I hate being a fan because you want to hope for the best even when you think its unrealistic.

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    • Steve says:

      Blanton was not used out of the bullpen in the NLCS or the WS. he started game 4 of the WS.

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    • hk says:

      Rut, I agree 100% with what you say about Hamels rebounding in 2010, but I don’t see any correlation between Blanton pitching in relief in the NLDS and his performance in the NLCS and WS. In his post-season starts, he basically pitched like he did all year. He threw 12 innings, gave up 11 hits and 4 BB’s and struck out 9. I wouldn’t put too much stock into 12 innings at all, but if you are going to analyze his 2 post-season starts, I’d say his H/9, BB/9 and K/9 are much more telling than his ERA.

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  11. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I don’t buy the Phillies’ “replenish the farm system” argument. The decision was purely one of dollars (needed $ for Victorino and Ruiz this year) and strategy. Strategy-wise, someone decided that the Phillies didn’t need a full year of Cliff Lee to make a division run. In the last two years the Phillies have won with less SP than they have this year. IMO, this is the best SP rotation the Phillies have had in many years.

    So what is wrong with getting rid of Lee, getting Halladay, signing Blanton, and in July picking up a healthy SP? Having a healthy Lee for a year would be great, but if ownership can’t pay for it, then eh.

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    • Steve says:

      So what is wrong with getting rid of Lee, getting Halladay, signing Blanton, and in July picking up a healthy SP?

      there is nothing “wrong” with it, but i think you are greatly underweighting the advantage that having Halladay and Lee throw 4 or possibly 5 games out of 7 in a playoff series would have given the Phillies.

      the Phillies, as constructed, are very likely to make the playoffs. the Phillies, with Lee instead of Blanton, are much more likely to WIN in the playoffs.

      i don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.

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  12. DavidCEisen says:

    I also think part of this is the Phillies overvaluing Happ.

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    • NEPP says:

      His peripherals have him as a fairly good #4 pitcher…they have him penciled in as their #4 pitcher for the next 3 years. How is that overvaluing?

      No one expects him to post a sub 3 ERA ever again. A low 4s ERA is likely though.

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    • BX says:

      How?

      He’s a league average starter entering his statistical prime with 5 years of team control remaining.

      That’s REALLY valuable when thinking trade value.

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  13. $8MM a year for three years was good a few years ago, but the free agent market has contracted violently for all but the elite free agent. Joe Blanton doesn’t fit the elite free agent mold.

    The contract is fair assuming Blanton’s agent recognizes this and gets him inked for Piniero money. Of course, why should the Phillies have locked in all the risk of three years rather than one season is beyond me.

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  14. NEPP says:

    Okay…let’s go slowly here. It was not Blanton vs. Lee. It never was gonna be that. Blanton was offered Arbitration BEFORE the Halladay deal got underway. He was already set (and budgeted) to make $7 million or so in 2010 regardless of what happened to Lee.

    Amaro tried to trade Blanton during the winter meetings and got tepid responses at best. The Halladay trade wiped out all the MLB ready talent in the Phillies system. To restock the system (cleared out by the previous Lee trade and the new Halladay trade), Amaro needed to get prospects that could help the team sooner than any potential draft picks would. Even had Amaro gone the draft pick route (nabbing 2 picks for Lee after 2010), those picks would not be ready until the 2015/2016 timeframe if ever. Instead, they got 3 decent to good prospects that have already shown ability and will all be at AA this year and be possibly ready by 2012…a date that fits in far better with the Phillies plans than the previous 2016 date.

    Also, keeping Blanton and Lee was never an option as the Philleis weren’t gonna push payroll into the $150+ million range anyway.

    Short-term (read: 2010), keeping Lee would have of course helped their chances significantly in making and/or winning a World Series. Long-term, trading Lee for prospects gives them a much better chance to stay competitive. If and when Hamels bounces back to a 140ish ERA+ guy (like 2007-2008), the Phillies will have 2 top of the rotation guys, a solid #3 in Blanton and an okay #4 in Happ. If they could win a rotation with Hamels and Myers topping the rotation, they can certainly do okay with Halladay and Hamels over the next 3 years they have both.

    On the Blanton signing, he’s a good solid pitcher who will likely give you 32 starts and 200 innings a year…hell, that’s what he’s averaged for his career. If he gives you that and an ERA around 4, its a good solid signing for a team that desperately needs cost controls. Some will point to the deals that Pineiro and Marquee got and say this is overpaying. For one, both of those pitchers are a few years older and neither has been as consistent as Blanton over the past 5 seasons.

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    • bflaff says:

      Don’t know why this hasn’t sunk in yet. The ‘Why’d they let Lee go?’ bashing has all the hallmarks of the ‘Why’d they let Burrell go and sign Ibanez?’ chatter from last offseason. It stems from a big misreading of the Phillies’ needs.

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  15. Erik says:

    The phillies already owed blanton in excess of 5 mil this year, and they tried like crazy to move him at winter meetings and could not. So they didn’t “choose” blanton over lee, since they were stuck with blantons contract they probably could not afford lee. Also they replenished some prospects to a farm system that is depleted from trading for lee and halladay.

    That being said I disagree with the decision. I think I would have bit the cliff lee bullet for 1 year to potentially win a championship, farm system matters nothing to me right now. No one touches hamels lee halladay blanton happ.

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  16. schmenkman says:

    “…given the ballpark that he calls home, I am not so sure that regression is going to come.”

    CBP has been as neutral as a park can be the past 3 years. Park factors of 1.03, 1.03, and 1.03 in 2007-2009.

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    • NEPP says:

      Your logic has no place here…everyone knows that CBP is a “bandbox” that pitchers can’t survive in. Its Coors Field East…Bobby Cox told me so!

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    • Teej says:

      StatCorner’s park factors, which are more in-depth than the ESPN numbers you’re using, show that while CBP is close to average in some areas, it’s very homer-friendly.

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