Hodor. :( (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Orioles and the Phillies are playing footsie about Joe Blanton, and it makes all kinds of sense.
Remember when the Orioles had all sorts of young pitching? When they had a rotation filled with young, covetable arms acquired through the draft or franchise-building trades? That was, oh, 500 days ago. It's been a long 500 days. And where the Orioles were supposed to enjoy a pitching-led renaissance, now they're winning in spite of a disappointing rotation.
The Orioles are heading into the deadline with the same kind of should-we/shouldn't-we dilemma that all of the surprising contenders face. The A's seem to feel comfortable as buyers, but you know the Pirates are having a tough time figuring out exactly how much of their future they'll give up. The Orioles are ahead of schedule, which is a blessing and a curse. Mostly a blessing. Still something of a frogurt-like endeavor, though.
They want pitching. They have great prospects they aren't willing to trade. So they aren't getting the best pitching they can get. They've already lost out on Zack Greinke. They aren't going to gamble on a slightly-dinged starting pitcher like Matt Garza. But they can't go into the last two months with Wei-Yin Chen as the only reliable starting pitcher until Jason Hammel comes back. Not if they want to keep the fans content.
Enter the perfect rumor, then:
Told Joe Blanton's medical records have been faxed to #orioles orthopedist. For what it's worth.
There you go. Blanton is this year's Derrek Lee or Ryan Ludwick. A name with a little utility for a team that's probably realistic about their chances. What are the Phillies really going to demand for two months of a pending free agent like Joe Blanton? Salary relief, mostly. Maybe -- maybe -- something like a relief prospect or a toolsy outfielder repeating a level after struggling. Something like that.
It wouldn't be a totally boring, upside-free move, either. Blanton is having a freaky season. His ERA is very Blantony -- possibly the Blantonest -- at 4.59 (87 ERA+). He leads the National League in home runs allowed, with 22 in 133 innings. But he's also cut his walks by an incredible margin, and he leads the world with a 6.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Maybe it's a fluke. It's probably a fluke. But those peripherals hint at a different Joe Blanton. At his worst, he's an innings-eater and a better option than Zach Britton or Tommy Hunter. But maybe there's something more there.
It would be somewhere between a token move and a significant upgrade. He'd help. The cost would be minimal. It's exactly what the Orioles should do in a season when they aren't going to promote Dylan Bundy (and they certainly aren't going to trade him). Trade a cartoon-bird hat for Blanton and take the rest of the month off. The important thing is to avoid a stupid trade. The Orioles dabbled briefly in the Zack Greinke market. That would have been a stupid trade. Blanton would be the "Eh, okay" trade the Orioles really need.
Also, this is the part of the article that says it's July, and we're talking about the Phillies giving up and trading a member of their rotation to the Orioles, who are contending. Never forget. As much sense as Blanton made for the Phillies these past few years, he makes more sense for the Orioles right now.