The addition of an inning-eater like Blanton to the Phillies starting rotation is just what they needed and his last two starts have gone a long way toward making his season stats with the Phillies look very respectable. With Cole Hamels shaking off a pitching slump and Brett Myers returning to form, you throw in ageless wonder Jamie Moyer and the Phillies rotation looks pretty formidable. With the exception of Moyer and the inclusion of number five starter Kyle Kendrick, the rotation also looks relatively young.
There was no denying that the Phillies gave up a lot to get Blanton and they knew it and admitted it. Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer were the cost and many Phillies fans have probably lost touch with what their former prospects are doing in their new surroundings.
One thing that jumps out is that none of the prospects seemed very close to playing in Philadelphia. They were all talked about as being "a couple of years away." Well, don't look now, but Oakland has bumped Outman to Triple-A and Cardenas to Double-A.
Spencer - who was somewhat of a throw-in - was hitting a very middle-of-the-road 6-42-.251 at High-A Clearwater and wasn't seen as much of a prospect. Call it rejuvenation or just a pleasant change of scenery, but at High-A Stockton, Spencer is pounding the ball with a 4-11-.337 line and is the type of hitter that the Phillies thought he had the potential to be. At 22, Spencer is still young enough to develop and turn into a serviceable player for the A's.
Outman, who the Phillies had bumped out of the starting rotation and moved to the bullpen, seemed to be getting the hang of relieving just before the Phillies shipped him out west. Oakland kept him at the Double-A level where he had been with the Phillies, but returned him to starting and over four starts, Outman built up his arm and fashioned a 4.26 ERA for Midland. Needing a reliever at the Triple-A level, Oakland moved him to Sacramento and he made his first Triple-A relief appearance Tuesday night (August 12) and threw a perfect inning. Whether Oakland will keep him in the rotation or the bullpen down the road isn't clear, but they know they have a quality pitcher in Outman.
Then, there's Adrian Cardenas. If Spencer was a throw-in, Cardenas was the main piece of the puzzle that got the deal done for Oakland. In fact, it's been rumored that without Cardenas in the package, there wouldn't have been a deal with the A's for Blanton. Cardenas was at the High-A level at the time of the deal and Oakland kept him there for a couple of weeks and he hit a respectable .278 with a home run and 10 RBI. That was enough to convince them that he could handle Double-A ball and he has risen to the challenge. Cardenas has hit in four of the five games that he's played at Midland (Double-A) and is hitting .316 in his short stint. Oakland initially kept him at second base when they acquired him, but moved him to shortstop just before moving him to Double-A and he's made just one error in eight games at short.
There are still no guarantees on any of the prospects that the Phillies sent to Oakland, but the early returns are that they are in line to do a lot for the A's situation. They certainly help to solidify the A's minor league system, which they have attempted to rebuild after watching it crumble. This could well turn out to be one of those deals that truly helps both teams. Blanton could be an important piece of the Phillies pitching staff and the young prospects could help to rebuild an Oakland organization that has hit some tough times. Who knows, if Blanton is kept in Philly long-term, maybe he'll be squaring off against Josh Outman in a World Series game down the road and facing Adrian Cardenas in a key situation. Perhaps that's the only way we'll know who got the better of this deal.