Late last night, news of a potential trade between the Phillies and Giants for right fielder Hunter Pence popped up. That trade is still up in the air, but the Phillies fire sale may be ramped up to a new level today, with starting pitchers Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee apparently in play.
Blanton's main suitor is apparently the Baltimore Orioles, with the Cardinals and Blue Jays showing interest, but not on the level of Baltimore. Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com is reporting that the Phillies are looking for "a major league ready utility infielder or a prospect who could be a viable middle reliever" for Blanton, which is far, far lower than the bounty that the Angels dealt for Zack Greinke, and a much more reasonable price for a team like the Orioles, who really aren't contenders but could get the fanbase happy with a deal at the deadline, much like the Pirates did last year by picking up Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick.
A utility infielder or a middle reliever would also benefit the Orioles getting help in their rotation without touching top prospects Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop. Despite Blanton's 4.59 ERA, he has a 6.39 strikeout to walk ratio (the second best mark in all of baseball), and he eats innings like Pac-Man eats dots. Baltimore's rotation has struggled immensely this year (aside from Wei-Yin Chen and the currently injured Jason Hammel), and a veteran like Blanton could help a lot.
As for Lee, the Phillies' sweep in Atlanta this weekend apaprently put him on the market. The front runner (once again) is the Rangers, who Lee played for in the second half of the 2010 season. There are a few factors that separate Lee in 2010 from Lee in 2012. One, the massive contract he's currently signed to. Lee will make $75 mllion from 2013 to 2015, and has a $27.5 million option for 2016 with a $12.5 million buyout. When Lee was traded three times between 2009 and 2010, he made a total of just $14.75 million over those two years. If the Phillies wish to pass Lee's entire contract onto the Rangers, they're not going to get much of a return at all. Hell, they got a package of garbage when they dealt him to the Mariners following the 2009 season, and he was only making $9 million that year. If the Phillies want any sort of significant return for Lee, they're going to need to eat a substantial portion of his salary, otherwise they're not going to get much of anything in return. Phillies fans are salivating over Rangers masher Mike Olt, and they're only going to sniff Olt if Ruben Amaro offers to pick up at least $40 million of Lee's remaining contract.
Despite his 1-6 record and 3.95 ERA, Lee is still a top-tier pitcher. His strikeout and walk rates are still elite, and he's been doomed overall by a rough time at Citizens Bank Park, where his ERA is a run higher than on the road. But then again, going to the Rangers isn't exactly going to help his home/road splits, because the Ballpark at Arlington is one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league. Texas could definitely use a pitcher of Lee's caliber with the rash of injuries they've suffered in their rotation lately, and someone like Lee was fit the bill to solidify their starting five.
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