Little did we know that one year ago today, the Phillies won the World Series.
Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton were struggling badly and the Phillies stood just 1/2 game up in the National League East, so there was a desperate need for another arm in the rotation. Pat Gillick - remember him? - looked around for a deal and found Joe Blanton and his 4.96 ERA pitching in Oakland. The A's were interested in making a deal, but insisted on three prospects - all ranked among the top 20 Phillies prospects - in exchange for Blanton. Gillick sent Adrian Cardenas (number two prospect), Josh Outman (number five prospect) and Matt Spencer (number 19 prospect) to Oakland for Blanton on the final day of the All-Star Break.
At the time, fans weren't enamored with the deal. Ashburn's, the PhillyBaseballNews.com official message board, was home to posts like these:
"I have a sick feeling that Cardenas will prove to be another Ryne Sandberg. One of several HOFs that the Phillies dealt off for less than reasonable return."
"Giving up two of your top five prospects is not good for a guy whose ERA is 5.0, in a pitchers ballpark. Dumb trade."
In the interest of full disclosure, I myself wrote:
The Phillies gave up a little too much in this deal, but the truth is that now was the right time to move and prices are only going to go up as the trade deadline approaches.
Through the wonders of hindsight, the Phillies made a pretty good move. Blanton was exactly what the rotation needed and went 4-0, 4.20 over the second-half of the season and went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in the post-season. Had we known that he was going to be that effective for the Phillies, the deal would have been much better received from the start and the package of players that the Phillies gave up wouldn't have seemed so enormous. The deal also would have been easier to handle if we would have been able to fast forward to see how the prospects that the Phillies sent to Oakland would succeed.
Josh Outman was in Oakland for the final month of last season and pitched well, working primarily out of the A's starting rotation. This season, Outman was again in the starting rotation and was pitching well, posting a 3.48 ERA until being shut down with a sore elbow which turned out to require Tommy John surgery, ending his season and putting his future in question. Adrian Cardenas reached Double-A last season and started this season at the same level before being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of April, but he's struggled mightily for the Bees, hitting just .177 through his first 18 games. Matt Spencer continues to progress for Oakland and was moved to Double-A Midland six weeks into the season and is hitting .270 through 45 games with the RockHounds.
Early this season, Blanton was struggling for the Phillies, but has turned things around and is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his last eight starts. With Jamie Moyer struggling, Cole Hamels inconsistent and Brett Meyers out for the season, Blanton and J.A. Happ have been important pieces in the Phillies rotation.
This season, the Phillies are pursuing a bigger fish in Roy Halladay and can only hope that if the deal is completed, we can look back a year from now and feel that Ruben Amaro Jr. was able to do the same thing that Gillick did last season and that the Phillies once again won the World Series before the season even ended and it was thanks to a July - or August - deal that turned out well for the Phillies.