Joe Blanton has a new home in the Philadelphia Phillies’ continuing bid to fine-tune the club for a 2013 comeback: he goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who claimed him off the waiver wire Friday, in exchange for either the proverbial player to be named later or some fresh cabbage from the Dodgers’ crisper. Like his erstwhile-turned-continuing teammate Shane Victorino, who was dealt to the Dodgers as the non-waiver trade deadline loomed Tuesday, Blanton can become a free agent at season’s end.
The Phillies, however, still have a mile or three to go before they get the complete salary relief they’ve sought in hand with remaking the club. Cliff Lee is on the waiver wire at this writing, too, and though his remaining annual salaries and 2016 option might make a few teams a little nervous, the bottom line may yet prove to be picking up a quality lefthander for a stretch run, assuming the team in question isn’t on Lee’s no-trade list.
Sports Illustrated thinks Lee has about a 65 percent chance of being dealt. Right now, with Victorino, Blanton, and Hunter Pence (to the San Francisco Giants) gone, Lee may be the only tradeable asset the Phillies have to move this season, what with the other high-priced spreads on the roster having the kind of seasons that’s flatted their trade value. The big holes for the Phillies now: third base and the outfield. The big pressure on them: getting at least a decent prospect or two in return.
Other waiver trade possibilities at this writing:
* Aramis Ramirez (Brewers, 3B)—It’s probably fair to presume Cliff Lee isn’t going anywhere but to a bona fide contender, which the Brewers aren’t, so the Phillies can’t think about Ramirez as a veteran stopgap at third for the rest of 2012 and perhaps all 2013. Ramirez also has something else the Phillies don’t need: his backloaded contract, considering the Phillies’ own salary problems. The good news for the Brewers: a) There are contenders who could use Ramirez’s experience and power at third base; the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Oakland Athletics come to mind at once; and, b) Brewers owner Mark Attanasio isn’t exactly shy about spending if it’ll mean improving the Brewers, even if spending in this case means eating some of Ramirez’s salary.
* Matt Garza (Cubs, RHP)—The fluid on Garza’s upper arm stopped him from going anywhere at the non-waiver deadline, but if he recovers well and shortly he could still go as a waiver trade. A point in the favour of any team who kicks his proverbial tires: he’s under team control through the end of the 2013, so he’s more than just a rental for any team interested in him.
* Denard Span (Twins, OF)—He’s probably the best everyday player on the market right now; a contender who needs a leadoff man could romance him. The problem is that the Twins aren’t in all that much of a hurry to lose a guy under team control through the end of 2014, but they might want to think twice—he could bring a nice return of a prospect or two from, among others, Washington, Cincinnati, or Detroit—all three of whom are contenders, and all three of whom could use Span profitably.
* B.J. Upton (Rays, OF)—SI says it best: The next time your buddies are going on and on about how players only show up when they’re playing for a contract, show them B.J. Upton’s 2012 statistics. Upton, who can hit the market after this season, has once again failed to turn his enormous talent into production, batting .244/.305/.372 with deteriorating plate discipline (101/32 K/BB) and a lack of power (nine homers and a full-season low .372 SLG). Upton’s poor season has made it less likely that he’ll cash in on the free-agent market, which in turn opens up the possibility that he would accept a one-year, $12.5-million qualifying offer from the Rays…which may make the Rays queasy about tendering that offer to remain eligible for a compensatory draft pick. Translation: The Rays may have to settle for working out a deal since it isn’t likely Upton clears waivers.
* Alfonso Soriano (Cubs, OF)—Was it really that long ago that we thought of him as the one the Yankees let get away the better to beat the Red Sox to Alex Rodriguez’s punch? God knows we haven’t been able to go a month (sometimes a week) without hearing about Soriano’s decline ever since he signed that off-the-chart Cub contract, which has been a millstone around the Cubs’ necks long enough. Yes, he’s having a bounceback season this year, or at least his best year since about 2008, but when the Cubs couldn’t find a way to tie him to a Ryan Dempster deal (if Dempster had gone to the Dodgers Soriano might have gone along for the ride) they may have lost their best chance to get out of Soriano’s final two years. Now? If a team desperate for righthanded power crops up, that might be the Cubs’ last best hope to unload him this year.