Dodgers add Blanton in deal with Phillies
LA also puts in waiver claim for Lee, who is 'not going anywhere'
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers tried to acquire Joe Blanton during talks with the Phillies that led to the Tuesday trade of outfielder Shane Victorino. They finally succeeded Friday, after the Dodgers had put in waiver claims for Phillies ace Cliff Lee and Blanton.
The Dodgers were prepared to take both starters without flinching at the nearly $100 million owed to Lee. But when the Phillies asked for a king's ransom in young (and not-so-young) talent in return, the Dodgers settled for Blanton. The Phillies in return will select one Minor League player from a short list of candidates.
By putting in a claim for Lee, the Dodgers' new owners were prepared to absorb the $25 million annual salary after already shelling out $85 million for an Andre Ethier extension, $42 million for Cuban free agent Yasiel Puig, $38 million in commitment to Hanley Ramirez and about $8.5 million in wages for Victorino, Blanton and relievers Brandon League and Randy Choate.
"Our ownership has been tremendous," said general manager Ned Colletti, who would not discuss Lee. "They get it. When we make a move, they say, 'Great, what's the next one?'"
It won't be Lee, as the inability of the Dodgers and Phillies to agree on players means he'll finish the season in Philadelphia.
"It's irrelevant. He's not going anywhere," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said when asked if Lee had been claimed.
Blanton, 31, is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA and is expected to slide into the fifth starter spot that originally belonged to Ted Lilly, who suffered a shoulder injury in May and a setback this week, scratched from a Minor League rehab start Friday.
Colletti said Lilly's uncertain status was "a little bit" of a factor in Blanton's acquisition.
Nathan Eovaldi originally replaced Lilly but was traded last week to Miami in the Ramirez trade. Stephen Fife replaced Eovaldi and made three starts.
Blanton was scheduled to start Friday night for the Phillies. Manager Don Mattingly said he won't decide when Blanton makes his first Dodgers start until analyzing upcoming matchups. Fife is scheduled to start again Monday.
"He's coming from basically a home run ballpark to basically more of a pitcher's park," Mattingly said of Blanton. "Joe is a strike thrower who doesn't walk a lot of people. Giving up solos is better than giving up that three-run homer. We really know what we are getting. We are getting a guy who is going to be in the strike zone, a guy with experience and a guy we think makes us better."
Blanton is a nine-year veteran who became the latest victim of the Phillies' fire sale. That included Victorino and Hunter Pence, who was dealt to the Giants.
"It was a little bit of a shock, especially since the Trade Deadline had passed," Blanton told Philadelphia reporters. "But when you're in trade rumors, you've got to be ready to do whatever. And I was happy if I stayed. At the same time, it will be a new thing, a new adventure to go. And that's always fun."
Blanton has appeared in the postseason in five seasons and was part of the Phillies' World Series championship team of 2008.
"When we got him from Oakland, we were in contention and he shored up that starting rotation for us and we ended up winning the World Series," Victorino said. "That is the kind of guy you are going to get and that's the kind of guy you want to pitch the second half of the season. He's capable of being that guy that is going to help you get into the postseason and pitch well into the postseason."
Blanton earns $8.5 million this year and can be a free agent at the end of the season. The Dodgers will pay the remainder of his salary.
Blanton joins Ramirez, Victorino, Choate and League as recent Dodgers acquisitions.
Despite Blanton's stats this year, his pitching has improved lately. Six of his last eight outings have been quality starts, including a July 16 win over the Dodgers when he allowed two earned runs in eight innings.
He has been a victim of the long ball, 22 home runs allowed, tying him with Mike Minor of the Braves for the most in the National League. He also has the lowest walks-per-nine-innings ratio in the league at 1.22.
"When you have a chance to get a starting pitcher who has pitched in big games and the month of October, it's somebody we should pursue," Colletti said of Blanton, although the comment also fits Lee. "He's really been outstanding the last six or seven weeks. His command is very good. He doesn't walk a lot of hitters. He throws strikes."
When Blanton is added to the rotation, he will join Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. While Lilly is now uncertain, the Dodgers believe that Rubby De La Rosa (recovered from Tommy John surgery) and Allen Webster, the team's No. 2 prospect, could provide September help.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.