There’s a snag in the possible movement of Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton to the Baltimore Orioles—and it has nothing to do with anything the Orioles found in Blanton’s medical records, for which they asked to review Monday. The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly says the snag is money:
The Orioles are deep into negotiations with the Philadelphia Phillies about acquiring right-hander Joe Blanton, but the amount of money the Orioles would have to pick up could be a sticking point in reaching an agreement before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline.
They likely could acquire the 31-year-old Blanton for a mid-level minor leaguer, but the Phillies also want to shed what remains on Blanton’s $8.5 million contract — which is approximately $3 million.
And, according to an industry source, the Orioles appear hesitant to absorb that figure for a pitcher who is considered a mid-to-late-rotation innings eater. The Phillies, who surprisingly are last in the National League East despite a $170 million-plus payroll, are looking for salary relief, especially after inking lefty Cole Hamels to a $144 million contract extension Wednesday.
The Phillies aren’t necessarily looking to blow up the team entirely even with the trades of Shane Victorino (Dodgers) and Hunter Pence (Giants)—they’re merely looking to shuffle a few pieces for a 2013 regrouping as well as salary relief. There may be no better analysis of their current position and what has fueled it than Jonah Keri at Grantland.com:
After the Phils lost in the ’09 World Series, Amaro started doubling down. There were smaller deals, like a three-year, $18 million pact with Placido Polanco to upgrade at third base. Then there were the mega-deals. First, Amaro flipped three more prospects to Toronto, landing arguably the best pitcher in the game in Roy Halladay. The Phillies then locked up Halladay in another below-market deal, getting a steal at three years, $60 million plus an option. The next contract sparked far more controversy, when [Ryan] Howard signed a five-year, $125 million extension that didn’t kick in until Opening Day 2012, nearly two years after pen hit paper. Whether the Phillies were opening the vault because they overvalued home runs and RBIs and overlooked Howard’s shortcomings (his struggles versus lefties; lack of defensive value; the fact that he’d already peaked three years earlier) or because they wanted to retain the de facto face of the franchise, it was an overpay. [Cliff] Lee returned to Philly in 2011 after a year away at five years, $120 million; [Jimmy] Rollins re-upped for three years, $33 million the next season; and Jonathan Papelbon also joined the next season at four years, $50 million.
When the Phillies took the field to start the 2012 season, they were shooting for their sixth straight division title. Except Howard, [Chase] Utley, and Rollins were all well past their prime with Howard and Utley on the DL, and the rest of the roster looked thin behind Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Papelbon, and a couple of key position players. All told, the Phillies’ payroll had nearly doubled in five years, to $172 million. They’d finally moved into the Yankees’ neighborhood.
It’s easy to criticize Amaro for the flawed, hugely expensive roster he now has: If you want to know why Philly owes about $115 million to six players next year and craves payroll flexibility now, look no further than the deals they handed out over the past few years. But really, that’s the nature of success. More often than not, winning leads to more spending, and not necessarily the other way around. Maybe the Howard deal shouldn’t have happened, and the team’s nucleus should have seen more turnover as everyone got older. But the Phillies’ revenue streams had exploded thanks to their five straight division titles and new stadium, and Amaro had a mandate to keep the good times rolling. We were going to reach this point sooner or later, even if Branch Rickey were in charge.
Most recently, Blanton posted five quality starts in his last six assignments and rolled a respectable 3.82 earned run average in July. The Orioles targeted Blanton as a pitcher who could help stablise a younger rotation.
The money may not be the only snag in the works. The Sun says the Phillies’ targets in a Blanton deal include infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, a 20-year-old who won the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson Award as their minor league player of the year, but the Orioles wouldn’t be likely to include Schoop in a deal.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .
NOW, THIS IS A SWITCH!—Thus far, the New York Mets’ 2012 has been marked by an arduous grapple for a shot at the postseason, but one made difficult to impossible by a bullpen that tends to detonate nuclear weapons instead of pitches at the Mets’ expense.
That was a collective New York heart attack you’ve been hearing since late Monday night, when the San Francisco Giants’ pen imploded on the Mets’ behalf—the Giants’ bulls upchucked a two-run lead and let the Mets hang up six runs in the final three innings, including but not limited to Scott Hairston’s two late bombs, a two-run shot in the eighth and a solo in the tenth. It’s as though the Giants’ bulls were trying to return the favour, since the Mets’ middle infield misplayed a sure one-out double-play, letting a Giants run score. The two teams actually traded leads four times before the game went to the extras and the Mets came out on top 8-7.
Still, the Mets need to reconstitute their bullpen—and fast, if they think they have a prayer of staying in the postseason picture. Bobby Parnell looks like a closer of the future but he needs to get better control of his lightning fastball, Frank Francisco (the incumbent) isn’t quite back from his injury, and Pedro Beato—who could yet be their future setup man—was sent back to the minors to get himself back on track. The Mets have been quiet on the non-waiver deadline trade market thus far.