When Jon Heyman reported earlier in the week that Joe Blanton was seeking $10.25M from the Phillies for the 2010 season, all of those old feelings of confusion over the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee deals resurfaced. Many of us began asking the same questions:
- Does Blanton really think he’s worth $10.25M?
- Was the Phillies counter of $7.5M too much of a lowball offer to drive the price down?
- Would Blanton’s 2010 contract exceed the $8M the team was scheduled to pay Cliff Lee (once upon a time?)
Needless to say, this wasn’t good news for the Phillies. It led to multiple articles being written about the benefits of keeping Lee and instead trading Blanton, an idea that unfortunately means nothing in this pre-time machine world we live in.
Let’s face facts: even with the Lee trade being more so about prospects than money, it was still about financial wiggle room to a certain degree. It would have been inexcusable to pay Joe Blanton, a pitcher quantifiably worse than Lee in every category known to man (or computer,) between $8-10M if Lee could have been kept for the same, or an even lower price.
Luckily, Ruben Amaro and Blanton’s agent, Jeff Barry, were able to agree to terms Thursday that will keep the righthander in Philadelphia through 2012. The three-year deal is worth $24M with $500,000 in incentives that can be reached if Kentucky Joe pitches a certain amount of innings.
Had Blanton gone to arbitration, it’s unclear if he would have been awarded $7.5M or $10.25M, because he would have been worth more than what the Phillies were offering but less than what he wanted. But avoiding the possibility of having to pay him over $10M is a huge coup for the Phils.
Blanton will make $7M in 2010, and $8.5M in 2011 and 2012. So, all in all, the Phillies saved a million bucks by keeping Blanton instead of Lee. (I’m sure that makes you all feel so much better about what’s transpired…)
Looking at this deal in a vacuum, ignoring what happened with Cliff Lee during that whirlwind week, this contract is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c for the Phillies.
For years Blanton was known as an “innings eater,” a term that any loyal Phillies Nation follower knows that I hate, because it is only used to describe average/mediocre pitchers. Example: you don’t hear Roy Halladay mentioned as an innings eater because there are roughly 6,787 other adjectives that sound better. You don’t hear people call Zack Greinke an innings eater and you never saw that label precede the name Greg Maddux for similar reasons.
But in 2009, Blanton did more than merely pitch a bunch of mediocre innings. He pitched 195 1/3 in all, while giving up his fewest amount of earned runs since his rookie season. His hit rate was also the lowest it had been since his rookie year.
But most importantly, Blanton became a strikeout pitcher. The best K/9 ratio he had ever compiled was 6.2, but last year it was 7.5. In five seasons with the Athletics, Blanton struck out 5.1 batters per nine innings, but in his year-and-a-half with the Phillies it has risen to 7.1
Blanton isn’t merely “eating innings” anymore, he’s mowing down the opposition and garnering actual, legitimate praise that can’t also be applied to a guy like Livan Hernandez.
After recognizing that Blanton has improved to the point that a three-year deal was beneficial to the Phillies, let’s take a look at the amount of money he’ll make from 2010-12.
A comparable pitcher that immediately came to mind for me was Randy Wolf. Before continuing to read, take a second to ask yourself, is Joe Blanton a better pitcher than Randy Wolf? Is he worse? Or are they similar enough that it’s hard to predict which pitcher will fare better in the next three years?
Regardless of what your answer was, keep in mind that Randy Wolf inked a three-year/$30M deal with the Brewers only a month ago. Wolf is 33 and often injured. Blanton is 29 and has made 31 or more starts in all five of his full seasons in the majors. So, even if you consider Wolf slightly better, Blanton being younger and healthier makes this deal more worth it.
(And, for the record, I see Blanton as having more upside than Wolf over the next three years, regardless of money or contracts.)
The current market value for N0. 3 starters like Joe Blanton is roughly $8-10 million a year, evidenced by Wolf’s deal and the 2-year/$16M contract Joel Pineiro signed earlier this week. The Phils were able to keep Blanton around for the low-part of that market value.
It will be easy to complain about Cliff Lee again. But let’s instead applaud the great work by Amaro and Blanton and rejoice at the fact that Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, and Happ are all locked up until at least 2011.