Phils Can Afford To Lose Blanton Long-Term

Posted by Corey Seidman, Wed, May 25, 2011 09:00 AM | Comments: 35

When a pitcher’s elbow is sore enough to land him on the DL not once, but twice, there is a problem. When that problem includes the phrases “second opinion” and “Dr. James Andrews,” the worst case scenario has likely been realized. We won’t know until Wednesday afternoon at the earliest, but it is possible that Joe Blanton will require Tommy John surgery.

An athlete does not often go for a second opinion if the first was favorable. Andrews’ most common surgery is Tommy John. It is easy to make the connection, though according to Matt Gelb of the Inquirer, two tests on Blanton’s elbow have shown no torn ligaments. Either way, he will be shut down for at least a month, probably more.

If Blanton does need to have the elbow reconstruction, he will be out until around June of next season. In retrospect, his contract will not have been a finer point of Ruben Amaro’s tenure, even if it didn’t appear wrong at the time. With Tommy John, the Phillies would receive a half-season of production from Blanton next year while the righthander attempts to resurrect his value on the open market. If he can come back and pitch well, he might get a two- or three-year deal. If not, a team might give him a flier at one-year, $5.5MM or so.

Luckily, the Phillies have the best starting rotation in baseball. Losing Blanton short-term or long-term does not plague the team as much as losing Jorge de la Rosa hurts the Rockies. Oftentimes a team can maneuver through the regular season with multiple fifth starters, and Blanton was never a realistic starting option in the playoffs.

Blanton’s injury might not hurt the Phils at all, when you consider the progress Vance Worley has made. Worley did not have great command Tuesday, but that was due mostly to the fact that he had only pitched two bullpens in the last week. He admitted after the game that even going five innings, he was “gassed”

All three runs allowed by Worley Tuesday came on bloop hits to shallow right field. Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips each lunged for balls, connecting with the end of the bat to help themselves to cheap hits. This was less a sign of a team adjusting to Worley than it was Worley combining bad luck with scheduling issues. Going from Lehigh Valley to Philly back to Lehigh Valley back to Philly (who is he, Sergio Escalona?) was rigorous for the rook. If he has a poor start next time out, there may be reason for concern. As of now, though, the early return on Worley is all positive.

Vance possesses the all-important ability to miss bats. He induced nine swinging strikes in 91 pitches Tuesday, or 9.8%. League average hovers around 8.5%. Missing bats is what allowed Worley to work through a second and third, one out situation in the fifth. After Phillips tied the game, Worley got Jay Bruce to swing and miss twice (strikeout) and Chris Heisey to fan at another pitch before flying out. To understand the importance of swinging strikes, think about how Kyle Kendrick would have fared in that situation. Kendrick cannot get anyone to fail to connect with a pitch, resulting in trouble getting out of jams. (Don’t even talk to me about his low 2011 ERA, that is based solely on incredible luck and the fact that five or six flyballs have reached the edge of the warning track rather than sailing two feet further over the fence.)

If Worley were replacing Cole Hamels, there would be a significant dropoff. Replacing Blanton, though, will not be as difficult a task. Worley appears to be capable of producing similar numbers to Blanton over the next several starts…or months. Blanton has been perfectly mediocre as a Phillie: approximately 10.0 hits per nine, a 1.40 WHIP and an ERA in the 4.50 region. Those numbers would be even worse if not for an above-average 2009.

Moving forward, Blanton’s probable absence will make Roy Oswalt‘s 2012 mutual option all the more attractive to the Phillies. If Blanton needs Tommy John, he’ll be out for the first part of next year and the Phils will need another starter. If he doesn’t need the surgery, his health in 2012 will still be a major concern, making rotational depth essential.

If Oswalt wants to keep playing, paying him $16MM in 2012 maintains that depth without having to give another pitcher a multi-year deal. Aside from Worley, there are not too many able bodied starting pitchers within the organization.

Rob Dibble may disagree, but the Phillies bringing Blanton back off the DL and pitching him despite his own vocal discomfort was a terrible idea. It made things worse, resulting in what will be an extended absence.

But if there is a non-bench player the Phillies can afford to lose, it is Blanton. My apologies to our readers in Kentucky.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    I, for one, am not ready to annoint Worley as a full-time member of the rotation. Over the years we have had lots of rookie pitchers come up and dazzle for a few starts. Usually about 5 starts. Then the league analyzes his pitching and suddenly he is just an OK 5th starter. Let’s keep the jury out on this until we get some reliable data.

    As to Blanton, he is historically a second half pitcher. Oswalt’s option is MUTUAL which means he has to agree. Quite frankly he can get more on the open market but I suspect he is not looking to pitch that much longer. In any case don’t count on him for 2012. Might be looking for Big Joe then.

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    One more point – Cole Hamels is a free agent in 2012 which could bring you down to Lee and Halladay.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    My take on Worley was that he was never some dazzling CAN’T MISS, TOP PROSPECT kinda guy… which is why I mentioned that he would be a great trade candidate . . . . some of the response to that made me sound crazy … more on the facebook page than here, but people were chiming in that he’s our “ace of the future” etc . . .

    Worley is a nice pitcher, I just think he’s JA Happ Jr right now… the real pitcher will show once there gets to be more video and a track record on what he’s got and what he does in certain situations . . . A lot of teams would be interested in a young, MLB-ready pitcher.. and I think he’d possibly hold more trade value than Blanton- due in large part to the $$$ they make

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    First – the Phillies and Blanton are downright stupid for letting him pitch, the writing was on the wall for this to happen. I believe I tweeted it was a bad idea right up front. Very adamant about that. You don’t like a guy throw is he has ANY elbow discomfort. This isn’t 1979.

    Also, I like Worley but my expectations of him aren’t great, just as they shouldn’t be for most. He looks like he has the tools to be a really good #4, maybe even a #3 in time. Right now, for him to fill in, the Phillies aren’t missing much of a beat. They just have to get him stretched out again after he sat for so long.

    I also don’t think he has a ton of trade value yet because he hasn’t pitched enough. He’s worth more to the Phillies anyway, with Blanton going down.

  • Posts: 122 Jay aka Phillyboy

    Avatar of Jay aka Phillyboy

    I agree 100% pat about not letting joe pitch,you could tell the start in fla that he was off.Also want to say that i think the VANIMAL has done a fine job filling in this year,and much rather him be starting then say KK !!!

  • Posts: 0 Barb

    That was a very fair and accurate assessment. I like Joe Blanton but let’s face it he’s good for about 5 innings, has some trouble pitching in the first and that’s about it. If we didn’t have our 4 other excellent starting pitchers, well, he fits the bill but we do. Vance Worley is a good prospect and I can only see him improving which will make him a good 5th starter.

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I also HATED the Blanton deal at the time – I think I made that fairly clear before. I don’t know anyone besides Amaro that thought it was a good deal.

    • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      I am usually very supportive of just about every move that Ruben makes. In fact, if I recall correctly, Dipsy even called me a “Ruben apologist” a year or so ago. In general, Ruben has done well. He has a fairly good body of work and gotten some good results Sure…. here have been some head-scratchers along the way (the TIMING of Howard extension comes to mind…although I did basically support it).

      But the Blanton deal was one that I REALLY scratched my head over. Even though they got him for what would be considered market value (right??) it just seemed like a misuse of $24 million. He was great in 2008 in helping us win a WFC but I just didn’t think he really EARNED that contract.

    • Posts: 2 George L.

      Avatar of George L.

      Blanton’s injury has took his fastball down to 85mph-87mph in his last start. His change-up is nearly the same speed as his fastball since the injury, and that is not a good sign. Blanton’s control this year has been questionable, except for a few starts and I do wonder if Blanton’s been dealing with on and off soreness in the elbow, but only a few weeks ago became so severe to affect his speed and control.

      Worley before this circus of coming up here, starting, then going to the pen, having one minor league start and being called up again. He was not prepared for this game, just like Kyle K. was called in a few minutes before the game.

      In reality, Blanton cost the Phillies two games with his indecisional health, and should be shut down awhile until he is 100% for the second half.

      Worley, has a great command of the strike zone, he can paint, and his cutter is nasty. His breaking pitch as he said was a work in progress, but he threw it great in his second outting.

      I believe the kid will do well. He can strike out batters unlike Kyle K. whos a contact pitcher.

      Worley’s poise on the mound is great, he does pitch like a Vet, he stays focused. Example, he gave up that home run in a relief appearance, and he comes back and strikes out the remaining batters. Hes great under pressure.

      This guy has a mountain of potential. Moreso than Kyle K. and with his youth he can build into a great 5th starter guy. What I like is his presents with men on base, hes not phased and he pitches out of jams, which I cannot say much even with Blanton being on the mound.

      We’ll see in the coming weeks, but if Worley’s mound presents holds like it is. This kid can be a fast rising start in the Phillie’s rotation.

      As for Blanton, he will be shutdown until this lingering issue is 100% resolved. Do we need him now unhealthy? No, we need healthy pitching, and do we need him yes. Oswalt’s back will be a issue later in the season, I would say the second half, especially toward post season when it gets colder. Oswalt usually pitched in the warmer Texas climate which was great for his back, up here the weather can change in a instant in September and his back issues may crop up severely late season. All things to watch out for.

      George L.

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    Not sure if that deal for Blanton was market value, I’m guessing it was close. But they didn’t really need to do it. You can find 15 guys like Blanton out there and for one year deals. It just didn’t make sense.

    I know Joe is a hard worker and a gamer, but the numbers have just been awful and weren’t really all that great before he got the deal.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    when the Blanton deal was done, I remember saying something along of if Meche, Silva, and Wolf are all worth $10 M per season…. than Blanton for $8 M is pretty good.

    Compared to Worley at $400, 000 . . . Blanton’s deal looks ridiculous… but compared to the guys above, that’s what you have to pay for the Average MLB pitcher… Blanton’s career numbers with a 4.33 ERA, heading for 200 innings a few times.. etc.. he’s average to slightly above average.. he’s got #3-5 pitcher, middle of the rotation written all over him..

    I can’t really complain about the Blanton deal because if he was pitching to his/our expectations, its a good deal , and that’s the risk that comes with any player

    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Don, none of those guys are worth close to what they got. They were in a light pitching market at the time, the Royals overpaid for Meche because no one wants to go there. The Phillies really didn’t need Blanton long term, they could have gone 1-2 years anyway.

      • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        Maybe they’re not worth what they got….but that’s what the market was demanding for guys like that at that time. So Blanton’s deal really wasn’t ridiculous if you look at it that way.

        My question was, though, why they thought that they need to sign a guy like that for 3 years. I guess it sort of goes back to the arguments for or against the Ibanez deal or for or against the Polanco deal. I supported both those deals….and still do to this day…..but Blanton’s deal just seemed unwarranted at the time.

      • Posts: 0 Don M

        I think * they thought that if FREE AGENT SP earn $10 ….even if they aren’t that good.. than to get a guy for 3 years, below that price is a wise move..

        The arguement can be made that every single free agent “isn’t worth close to what they got” . . . Teixeira, Sabathia, Werth all come to mind…

        When they signed Blanton, I believe we still had Moyer, Myers, Kendrick in the rotation? Not knowing that Lee, Oswalt, Halladay would follow – so they took a chance. maybe they missed but you need 5 starters so to add a guy thats a proven #3-5 for $8 M a year isn’t that big a deal to me… thats kind of the going rate in my mind

  • Posts: 0 Tavian

    We cannot blame Blanton for signing a big lucrative contract. We cannot blame Blanton for his elbow trouble. But we can blame the Phils for pitching him with a sore elbow. We can blame the Phils for this Adam-Eaton type contract. I wonder if there is some type of insurance policy on players to cover a team for the salary if such a player gets injured long-term as may be the case with Blanton? If so, then would that free up some monies for the Phils to go out and get a decent hitter?

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Thanks for the piece Corey, you spelled everything out perfectly. Very few teams have the luxury of losing a starter, but we do, so if TJ surgery is needed we’ll get along fine.

    The only thing that I would add is that TJ surgery, while for most takes about a year to come back from, it’s not a certainty. There are several examples of pitchers that it took 18 months or longer, and others that just never returned to form. Dr. Jobe invented an amazing procedure to allow pitchers to continue their craft, at a time when these injuries used to mean the end of a career. But as with all surgical procedures, there are varying degrees of success. So we can’t assume anything. In my estimation that takes Worley off the trade market at least at this point, until we see some more results from our many young arms in the Minors.

    • Posts: 0 Lefty

      oops, “the luxury of being able to lose a starter”

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I thought the Blanton deal was an “eh” type thing. I thought that it was for a reasonable price for the pitcher that he was at the time. I also thought that his salary would not prohibit a trade down the line. Had I known that the Blanton deal was gonna help shut down the wallet on keeping Lee, I would have been dead set against it. I can’t kill Ruben for the deal. He’s made truly great moves and truly bad ones bit I don’t think the Blanton thing falls into either of the two. I look at Worley and I love his stuff. His fastball moves although it didn’t last night. I think he’s got real potential. At least he does have “stuff” as opposed to KK.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 103 Bart Shart

    Avatar of Bart Shart

    I like Blanton. I hope he is ok. After all what other team in baseball has both a Cliff Lee and a Chum Lee (Blanton).? He is a good ole boy and seldom leaves a crumb on his plate. I like that and hope he is healthy , and does not need surgery.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    More dead weight taking up payroll for the Phils if he is injured long term. I wonder if there is some type of insurance against this thing. I like Worley but as another person mentioned an ive mentioned before a lot of these guys pitch well for 5 or 6 games then the league starts to figure them out. Worley wasnt that great in the minors but that doesnt necessarily mean he will be bad in the Majors either. I hope they can get Oswalt for another year somehow especially now. I also think the reason Worley was sent down was so the league couldnt see him as much an have an approach to him. I wonder what they would do with Cole. I believe we need at least three aces for next year to protect our on an off again offense.

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Don, when the Phillies extended Blanton in January of 2010 they had shown Myers the door, traded Lee and signed Halladay. So they were going into the ’10 season with Doc, Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick and Blanton (with his signing). I agree that they took a chance…and I’m all for that. But it just seems like they could have gotten someone else for less years or even Blanton himself.

    I don’t want to beat this thing to death. I mean, for how long have we been debating the Raul Ibanez signing on here, saying that the 3rd year they gave Raul is what it took to get him here? Can the same be said of the Blanton deal?? Here’s a link to a Jayson Stark article he wrote in the fall of 2009 in relation to the free-agent pitcher market for the 2009-2010 offseason.http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=4462509

    Words like”risky, weak, terrible, mediocre, thin, roll-of-the-dice, one-year-contract” are all used by some GMs

    And so is the word “fortunate” because as those GMs said, “these guys are going to get overpaid”.

    So, even though Blanton SHOULD have gotten a one year deal (???) he was “overpaid” when considering what these team officials were talking about.

    • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      And, I forgot….Happ was in that mix, too.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    I dont think Blanton was necessarily over paid (maybe a little) i think it was the third year that got a lot of fans PO a litle…

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I guess that’s the point I was trying to make. While a lot of people were all over Ruben…and still are…for giving Raul that 3rd year….it’s clear that that’s what it took to get him to come here. But was it really necessary to do the same with Blanton?? I don’t know….maybe it was. But it just seems to me that a 2 year deal at $8M per would have been fine.

    At this point though, what’s done is done and all we can hope for as a fanbase is that Joe is able to come back and contribute.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Everyone was all over Ruben for the Raul deal because: A) He was old; B) He was a lefty; and C) He was expensive. If Raul has a weakness its that sometimes he gets jumpy and leaps at the guy he wants and that its – he’s gonna get him. In this case, that impulse hurt him. The Cubs were gonna pay him this, another team was gonna pay him that. Fine. Then let him go. There are some guys you can overpay for and get away with it. See HOWARD, Ryan; LEE, Cliff. But those guys are special players. The day after the signing I remember reading about it and thinking that they should have let Ibanez go and just wait to see what else developed. A little patience in that situation would have been nice.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    *that’s it – he’s gonna get him.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Andrew From Waldorf

    Sometimes the best free agent moves are the ones you dont make.
    Soriano, Alfonso

    Fat Joe is hurt and in the last year of his contract
    So who cares?

    • Posts: 1189 Manny

      Avatar of Manny

      This is not the last year of his contract. He’s in for 2012 and making 8.5 million.

      • Posts: 1189 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        I hope those 8.5 million (or 17 million if you count 2011′s 8.5 million) don’t keep us from resigning Madson or Hamels.

        Madson: 17 million for him could give you 3 more years of a premier setup/closer.
        Hamels: 17 million could give that extra year in our offer that might be needed to keep him in Philly.

  • Posts: 1189 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    I didn’t think that the Blanton deal was “bad” at the time (though I wasn’t in favor), but I did think that it was completely unnecessary. Why, why, why give a 3-year contract to a pitcher with mediocre numbers? To answer my own question: I believe the Phillies were thinking that he’d suddenly transform into a very good pitcher after a good second-half of the season… thinking maybe that he was on the brink of turning it on for good. But they clearly missed here. They took too much risk by expecting something out of Blanton that was never there.

    People talk[ed] so much crap about Raul’s deal, even Polanco’s deal at the time, but clearly Blanton for 3 years is and will prove to be the worst one of them all… and by a significant margin.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    If you can give me 200IP 13W 3.95 ERA, I will give you 8.5m a year.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Andrew From Waldorf

    I really didnt know they extended him in 2010 and is owed in 2012
    you cant fix stupid

    His value is none.

    But when you are over paying Ryan Howard to the tune of 25 million in 2012
    It is really all part of being a big market team.
    Who sells 47000 tickets every night

  • Posts: 2068 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Take Joe Blanton out of the equation for the last 4 seasons – would the Phils have won division titles? Very probably so.

    Take Ryan Howard out of this equation, the Phils are not even contending. Who sells more than 42000 tickets (I heard that is the quota for a sell out) every game – nobody. The Phils are where they are because (OK mainly) of Ryan Howard.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew From Waldorf

    Brooks there are 10 other firstbaseman who can do what he does or even better.

    Again this year he wont be an allstar.

    He is over paid.

    If you take away Blanton it doesnt matter.

    If you take away Howard and insert Votto or A gonz or Texiera or pujos etc etc
    And the phils are fine.

    When his contract is up and hes gone. Somone else will be hitting 4th and playing 1b and they too will seem and will be the most important batter.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew From Waldorf

    I also mean no harm.
    He is fine for the Phillies

    The next clean up hitter firstbaseman for the phillies will also probably be over paid.

    Teams like the Phillies Yankees and Red Sox have to over pay.

    You just cant grossly over pay like the Nats did Werth.

    Howard while over paid isnt grossly over paid and its not a big deal as some would portray it.

Leave a Comment

>> Create a new Phillies Nation account.
>> Already registered with Phillies Nation? Log in here.
>> Comment without logging in:

Please ensure your comments comply with our Comment Policy.