The Phillies lost the CC Sabathia sweepstakes, but they think they found someone yesterday who can help them the way Jamie Moyer did in 2006 and Kyle Lohse did in 2007.
They think righthander Joe Blanton can give them something Adam Eaton has not: innings and wins.
"We feel his makeup is going to allow him to fit very well in a pennant race," Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said last night after the Phils acquired Blanton in a trade with the Oakland Athletics for prospects Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer. "He was attractive for a lot of reasons."
Blanton, 27, is 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA, but the Phillies and the pitcher think those numbers are deceiving and will improve in the second half.
"I feel like one of my bigger strengths is that I'm a guy who goes out and grabs the ball every start," said Blanton, who had the seventh-lowest run support in the American League. "I'm a guy that wants to stay out there as long as they'll let me go. I definitely like to feel that I build as the season goes."
Blanton was tied for third among American League pitchers in innings pitched (7522/3) from 2005 to this season. Only the White Sox' Mark Buehrle and the Angels' Jon Garland have pitched more.
That's one reason the Phillies liked Blanton. Another is that he cannot become a free agent until after the 2010 season, which means the Phillies did not ship three prospects to Oakland for a 21/2-month rental.
"Looking to the future, anytime we're moving guys that we view as good potential big-leaguers, you like to have someone coming back that you feel is going to be part of things . . . and help us accomplish what we want to accomplish over the next couple years," Arbuckle said. ". . . And all of us, our scouts and staff, everyone loves his competitiveness."
Blanton is expected to knock Eaton from a rotation that includes Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick, although Arbuckle said no decision on Eaton's fate has been made.
But Eaton is the obvious choice to move to the bullpen. He is 1-4 with a 9.64 ERA in his last five starts, 3-8 with a 5.71 ERA this season and 13-18 with a 6.06 ERA in his Phillies career. Myers is scheduled to pitch tonight for single-A Clearwater, rejoin the Phillies this weekend in Florida, and pitch Wednesday against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. The Phils need Myers to return to his old form, and he will be given the chance to do it.
If Myers succeeds, the Phillies certainly would be more comfortable with their rotation as they head into the thick of the pennant race. But Arbuckle said the Phils were not necessarily finished with improvements before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
"We're still going to continue to look," he said. "As we've said all along, we're looking to continue to improve the club in whatever ways we can do it, as long as it makes sense. Our view is that it has to be something that improves us. We're not going to make moves just to make moves. We obviously feel acquiring Joe definitely improves us in an area [where] we said we wanted to make improvements."
Don't expect another starter at this point. Think bullpen first, a hitter second.
The Phillies started talks with the A's a little more than a week ago. Talks intensified this week, especially over the last two days.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Blanton did not come cheap. Cardenas was a supplemental first-round pick in 2006 and one of the organization's top prospects. He was hitting .309 with four homers and 23 RBIs at Clearwater. Outman, a 10th-round pick in 2005, had been moved to the bullpen in double-A Reading. He is 4-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 relief appearances this season. Spencer, a third-round pick last year, is hitting .249 with six homers and 41 RBIs for Clearwater.
"We moved some kids that we view as future quality big-leaguers," Arbuckle said. "But obviously in order to get a young pitcher like Joe, you have to be willing to give something up. . . . Where we are at this point in time, it was the right move to make."
Pitching change. The Florida Marlins plan to place lefthander Andrew Miller on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right knee. Miller was scratched from his scheduled start against the Phillies on Sunday. Righthander Josh Johnson will take his place.