Whichever Team Gets Joe Blanton is Getting an Underrated Starting Pitcher

By Cody Swartz

The Philadelphia Phillies have just one day remaining if they want to trade any of the many players on the team that have been on the trade block this July, and Joe Blanton is very likely to have another team within 24 hours.

Blanton is a free agent following the season, and considering he’s in the final year of a three-year, $24 million contract, and won’t be back for 2013, it makes sense for the Phillies to trade him now. That, and the fact that the team won’t be making the playoffs this October.

Blanton started the season having a miserable stretch (5-6, 5.40 ERA, .827 opponents’ OPS) and he was a laughingstock every time that he pitched, but he’s been extremely reliable over the last six weeks. During that span, Blanton has made eight starts, compiling a 3.55 ERA and a ridiculous 54 strikeouts against just six walks. He’s allowing hitters to just a .233 batting average and .251 on-base percentage, and the Phillies are 5-3 in those contests.

Blanton has gone at least six innings in each of his last 10 starts, reaching seven innings in six of those. He isn’t the kind of pitcher a team wants starting Game 7 of the World Series, but he’s a solid pitcher if he’s the number three or four in a rotation, and he’s got several things going for him. Blanton is experienced, he’s pitched in the postseason (and multiple World Series), and he’s thrived in his career when he’s been traded at midseason.

In 2008, the Phillies acquired Blanton at the deadline and he went 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA in 13 starts down the stretch. He won’t blow anyone away with a 96 mile per hour fastball or a devastating curveball, but he’s a consummate professional who has gotten steadily better over his career. Believe it or not, Blanton is actually leading the National League in fewest walks per nine innings (1.2) and strikeout to walk ratio (6.39). He still gives up too many gopher balls, as his 22 given up leads the league, but he’s settled down and allowed just four in his last five starts after allowing 16 in his previous eight starts.

Blanton is 31 years old but he will probably get a deal in the offseason similar to what he has now – three years for about $25-30 million. And at the very least, he’s a good veteran pickup for a contending team down the stretch.

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