With the glory years clearly in the rear view mirror, I will review the major transactions that lead up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history, and how it impacts the team today and going forward. The previous three installments can be found here, here and here.
Today’s focus: July 17, 2008 — the Phillies trade Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matthew Spencer to the Oakland Athletics for Joe Blanton.
Background: The Phils were coming off of their first playoff appearance in 14 years and needed fortification in their starting rotation for the stretch run to repeat as division champions. Kyle Kendrick did not repeat his sensational rookie numbers, and the Phillies dealt three minor leaguers to the A’s for Blanton.
Evaluation for Athletics: Spencer, a former third-round pick, never made it above triple A and is bouncing around the independent leagues today. Cardenas, one of the top Phillies’ prospects at the time and an excellent middle infield glove and bat, also never made it above triple A and retired at the age of 25. He is now taking classes at NYU. Outman was called up to the majors later that September and became one of the team’s better relievers after failing as a starter. At only age 29, he is currently a reliever for the Cleveland Indians.
Evaluation for Phillies: Blanton went 4-0 in 13 starts with the Phillies the rest of the 2008 season, and was an instrumental part of their playoff rotation. He became legend when he hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series that year. He signed an extension and was a reliable, if unremarkable member of their starting rotation until the team traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2012.
Who Won?: This is a win for the Phillies. At the time, the trade was underwhelming. Outman was the second of a three-headed pitching prospect group to be traded in as many trading deadlines (Matt Maloney was traded the previous season to the Cincinnati Reds for Kyle Lohse, Kendrick being the third) and turned out to be a fairly solid regular.
Spencer was a high-ceiling prospect and Cardenas was a top middle infield prospect with an excellent bat. To boot, Blanton was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts at the time of the trade, so the fanfare nonexistent and the moans were loud.
However, Blanton more than proved his worth and was a member of their next four playoff rotations. All but Outman flopped for the A’s. While the A’s didn’t exactly miss Blanton (his spot in the rotation was ironically filled by the one and only Gio Gonzalez making his major league debut), their return for a former first-round pick ended up being disappointing.
What If They Didn’t Trade For Blanton?: The Phillies were aggressive with Oakland for Blanton, indicating their strong desire for a starter that year. If not Blanton, they may have anted up with Oakland for Dan Haren or really paid the price to for C.C. Sabathia, who was moved earlier that month.
Rich Harden was also moved that season. Of all names to consider, Blanton ended up being the cheapest and outperformed his price for the Phils. Plus, he was the key acquisition the year they won the World Series, so how could this trade not be a win, right?
What’s Next? Clifton Phifer Lee