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.