Blanton Becomes Bait For Blue Jays

The Phillies turned to the Toronto Blue Jays a couple of Decembers ago when they needed a starting pitcher; they found Roy Halladay. Interestingly, Toronto's search for pitching brings them to the Phillies.

Ruben Amaro Jr. and Alex Anthopoulos are no strangers to each other. The two GMs teamed up to devise the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies back in December of 2009. Anthopoulos was able to get Amaro to throw in some pretty good young prospects, namely Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis D'Arnaud. The deal hasn't quite worked out yet for Toronto, with Drabek posting a 5.83 ERA in 21 games with Toronto, Taylor being dealt for Brett Wallace, who was then dealt for Anthony Gose, another former Phillie. It appears that d'Arnaud may be the prize of the deal, especially after being awarded the MVP Award for the Double-A Eastern League. Meanwhile, Halladay has gone on to post a 40-16 record for the Phillies.

Even though that deal hasn't been as good for Toronto as they had initially hoped, Anthopoulos apparently has no fear of again dealing with the Phillies.

The Blue Jays GM was in Clearwater Saturday to watch Joe Blanton pitch as he scours Florida and Arizona for a pitcher to add to their starting rotation. The Jays are optimistic - especially with the advent of a second wild-card team in each league - that they might be able to contend for a playoff spot this season and adding a veteran pitcher to their ranks would make that optimism all the more real. Blanton would appear to be a good fit since he has experience in the American League and can eat a lot of innings when he's healthy, which he's started to prove so far this spring.

The Phillies wouldn't need a major league ready starter in exchange for Blanton, since they can simply plug Kyle Kendrick back into the rotation and feel comfortable that he will be able to give them a quality fifth starter who would be good enough to keep the club in contention. There were whispers over the winter that the Phillies were interested in getting d'Arnaud back from Toronto, but with his seemingly bright future and the weak performance of Drabek in the majors so far, the Jays will likely want to hang onto the 23-year old catcher as a memento of the deal that sent one of the most successful Blue Jays of all-time out of the Great White North. Certainly, Anthopoulos would be too smart to do a Blanton for d'Arnaud deal. It's also not likely that the Jays would give up their other former Phillies prospect Anthony Gose, who is thought by many to be the second best prospect in the organization right behind d'Arnaud.

One target for the Phillies could be right-hander Drew Hutchison, who was drafted out of Lakeland (Florida) High School in the 15th round of the 2009 Draft. Hutchison started last season in Low-A ball and worked his way up to Double-A New Hampshire by the end of the season, posting a combined mark of 14-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 27 starts. While the Phillies have a good amount of young starting pitchers in the minor league system, you can never really have too many. Plus, the Blue Jays organization doesn't have a lot of young infield types, which is what the Phillies system is most lacking in at this point.

Dealing Blanton would get the Phillies a decent prospect in exchange, but might best serve the Phillies in a couple of other areas. Even if the Phillies ate $2 million of Blanton's $8 million salary for this season, which rumor has it they would be willing to do, the deal would give the Phillies some financial flexibility. That extra pocket money could be used in a couple of potential ways; Perhaps Roy Oswalt would accept an incentive-laden deal based somewhere around the $6 million range to come off of his self-imposed vacation and rejoin the Phillies. Perhaps more importantly, the money might come in handy if the Phillies were in need of a particular piece of the puzzle around the trade deadline and had the opportunity to acquire a somewhat pricey player. Plus, the addition of the added prospect would give the Phillies one more bullet to put in the chamber to pull off just such a trade.

The bottom line is that it appears Blanton is healthy and if the Phillies are going to deal him, the time might be now. Toronto has had some decent drafts over the past couple of years and are rebuilding their minor league system and although they don't necessarily make a perfect fit for the Phillies, they have some young talent that could intrigue the Phillies and could offer Amaro the type of financial flexibility that he would like to have for the 2012 season.



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