Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

Bearing in mind that Joe Blanton was, depending on how you sliced it, the third-to-fifth best pitcher available on the trade market (behind Sabathia and a healthy Harden, in the mix with Bedard and Burnett, probably ahead of an aging Maddux and a Petco mirage Wolf), the trade the Phillies made to get him was a little disturbing from both sides.

From the Phillies' side, it's a "that's all?" deal. While Blanton's stock was high going into the season, he's pitched poorly this year in front of a great defense in a pitchers' park. As a replacement for the self-perforating Adam Eaton, he's an upgrade; as a response to the big pitching acquisitions in the NL Central, he's not cause to break out the schnapps and sauerbraten.

The A's, in return, got three prospects from the Phils, including the #s 2 and 4 guys in the system. (Billy Beane is apparently too smart to take Greg Golson, curse the luck.) Mind you, those guys (Cardenas and Outman) are characterized by Keith Law as a decent second baseman and a LOOGY, at best. That's not a huge haul, and it doesn't say much for the Phillies' system that these guys were near the top of it.

In the end, the trade makes some sense. Blanton will pitch better and longer than Eaton, saving the Phils' bullpen and hopefully not digging them early holes every game he starts. The A's got more prospects for a guy whose value had cratered, and who was easily replaceable with one of the armada of arms Beane had stockpiled in AAA. But at the same time, it's almost cringeworthy that this was all the A's* got for pre-season hot item Blanton, that it was the best the Phils could offer, and that it was an appropriate haul.

*There are a lot of folks questioning why Beane sold 40% of his rotation with his team still theoretically in contention. The answer is, of course, that they're not. Too many black holes in the lineup, too many games to make up on the Angels, and Beane recognized this and moved fast while his trading chits still had maximum value. I know you're not supposed to give up on the year while you're within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but at the same time, there's shouting distance and then there's fading into the distance, and that's what the A's were doing. Beane just recognized it faster than, say, your average Bavasi would.
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