Phillies must Find their 2019 Version of Joe Blanton

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The year was 2008. Starting pitcher Adam Eaton was terrible and on July 17th, the Phillies decided to do something about it. They acquired Joe Blanton from the A’s and good things followed.

The year is 2019. Jerad Eickhoff/other 5-starters are terrible for the Phillies. The Phillies need to do something about it. Surprisingly, there a lot in common in this comparison than just the narrative.

Let’s take a look.

The Soon to be Replaced

Adam Eaton was never a good player. He had 1 year where he had an ERA+ of over 100 (100 being league average) and that was his rookie year. His performance was particularly awful with the Phillies in 2007. Eaton somehow managed to have a 10-10 record despite having a frightening 6.29 ERA.

The flip of a calendar didn’t help Eaton either. Before he was replaced in the rotation, he had a record of 3-8 with a 5.71 ERA. Opposing players were hitting .302 against him.

Like Eaton, Jerad Eickhoff only showed true promise at the beginning of his career, posting a 3.44 ERA in his first 2 seasons. Since then, Eickhoff hasn’t had an ERA under 4.71, granted he did face a couple of injuries.

In 2019, things seemed to be looking up for Eickhoff. He came back from AAA and won a job back in the rotation. For his first 30 IP, he looked like a new player. He had a 1.50 ERA and no home runs allowed.

That has since changed. Since Eickhoff gave up his first home run, his number has been nothing short of horrendous. In just 26.1 IP, Eickhoff has given up 16 long balls, the most in the National League for the entire season. Kyle Freeland of the Rockies and Chris Archer of the Pirate have also given up 16, but Eickhoff didn’t pitch in the majors until April 16th. Along with that, he’s carried an 8.89 ERA. Opposing batters have hit .306 against him.

The 2008 Trade

To replace Adam Eaton in the rotation, the Phillies struck a deal to acquire then 27-year-old Joe Blanton. The burly ball chucker didn’t come cheap as he was under contract until 2011. With Oakland, Blanton had a 4.69 ERA.

The prospect haul included Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman, and Matt Spencer. Who were these young bucks and what were their standings in the organization? I’m glad you asked, because I found 3 prospect blogs from 2008 with player rankings in the Phillies system.

Adrian Cardenas was considered the top of the pack. He slashed .295/.354/.417 in A ball in 2007. All 3 blogs had him ranked either #1 or 2 in the organization at the time. He was a second baseman and was considered blocked by Chase Utley.

Josh Outman was a lefty who had just transitioned to the bullpen in AA Reading. He was 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA at the time of the trade. The 3 blogs all had Outman ranked in the top 10 (3, 4, and 7).

Matt Spencer was an underperforming outfielder in A+ hitting .251. Although struggling, he was ranked among the blogs. He was ranked 14th and 16th overall in 2 of the blogs. The 3rd was only a top 10 prospect list.

Only Outman would go on to see significant major league service time, playing in parts of 6 seasons in the majors.

Blanton would improve withe the Phillies, having a 4.20 ERA down the stretch. He would ultimately help the Phillies win their first World Series in 28 years and he did this for the only time in his career.

What a similar 2019 trade could look like

Let’s address this first. A trade of this caliber would not be for a Zach Grienke, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor or Robbie Ray type. It would be a middle to end of the rotation type with an ERA around 4.

Let’s start with buy low/ buy interesting candidates. First is Seattle’s Tommy Milone. He’s in his last year of arbitration. Milone has a career 4.39 ERA and is doing well through 5 games with a 3.42 ERA. Phillies have already had 2 trades with Seattle. Why shouldn’t they have a third?

This one is a little odd, Francisco Liriano. The 35-year-old is having a renaissance in the Pirates’ bullpen. He has a sterling 2.27 ERA. He is only 1 year removed from starting 26 games, so a move to the rotation won’t be out of the question.

The next group of trade targets are players who would be coming back from injury. Alex Wood has been quietly one of MLB’s best lefties. In 6 seasons, he’s had a 3.29 career ERA. He’ll be coming back from injury right around the All-Star break and it shouldn’t cost much for the veteran.

While Pittsburgh’s Jordan Lyles has a career 5.15 ERA, his last 2 seasons could make him an interesting pickup. His ERA is at 3.91 over those past 2 seasons was 152 IP with 150 K. Lyles will be back from injury in mid to late June.

Every good list of trade targets needs a salty veteran and Jeff Samardzija is it. The current Giant has a 3.72 ERA this season in 13 starts. From 2013-2017, Samardzija would routinely hit the 200 IP mark. It might be worth kicking those tires.

Our last listee is the most similar to Joe Blanton. From 2006-2008, Blanton’s ERA was 4.46. From 2017-2019, Royal Danny Duffy has had a 4.36 ERA. Duffly, like Blanton, is also signed for a couple more years (until 2021). Duffy makes a lot of sense for the Phillies since he’s a dependable lefty that the Phillies haven’t had in years. Also, a switch to the NL might be a huge boost for the Kansas City lifer.