Joe Blanton Rumors

Pirates Acquire Joe Blanton

The Pirates announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Joe Blanton from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations. Blanton had been designated for assignment by the Royals earlier this week despite generally solid numbers, and he’ll join the Pirates’ roster tomorrow.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

The veteran Blanton seems likely to be asked to help the Pirates in a relief capacity, but he could also emerge as an option at the back end of their rotation eventually. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano have all turned in excellent seasons thus far, but each of Jeff Locke, Vance Worley and Charlie Morton has posted an ERA above 4.00.


Royals Designate Joe Blanton For Assignment

The Royals announced that they’ve designated right-hander Joe Blanton for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Johnny Cueto.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

Nonetheless, Blanton looks much improved over the form he showed in his first and only season with the Angels. After signing a two-year, $16MM contract with Anaheim, Blanton quickly declined, posting a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings, due largely to a colossal spike in his homer-to-flyball rate. Prior to that deal, Blanton had been a solid back-end starter with the Athletics and Phillies. From 2005-12, Blanton averaged 178 innings per season with a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.


Minor Moves: Burton, Blanton, Boscan, Mitchell

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, with the most recent at the top.

  • the Yankees have released righty Jared Burton, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. Burton, formerly a regular in the Reds and Twins bullpens, has made a handful of appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. The Yankees originally signed Burton to a minor-league deal with a series of opt-out dates, and they already released and re-signed him in March, so perhaps it’s not out of the question that they could re-sign him yet again.
  • The Royals have announced that they’ve selected the contract of veteran righty Joe Blanton. Blanton had an opt-out opportunity yesterday on his minor-league deal. He had been pitching for Triple-A Omaha, where he posted a 3.89 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings. The longtime Athletics and Phillies starter last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, when he posted a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings with the Angels. Blanton will work in long relief, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. The Royals also announced that they optioned righty Aaron Brooks to Omaha and placed lefty Brian Flynn on the 60-day disabled list.
  • The Pirates have selected the contract of righty Wilfredo Boscan, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. They also optioned utilityman Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Indianapolis and moved righty Brandon Cumpton to the 60-day disabled list. Boscan will, presumably, help the Pirates’ bullpen after yesterday’s 11-10 extra-inning loss, which required the Bucs to throw 261 pitches. The 25-year-old Boscan has a 2.87 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has never pitched in the Majors.
  • The Angels have signed outfield Jared Mitchell and assigned him to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, the Travelers have announced. The White Sox released Mitchell, a 2009 first-round pick, earlier this month. The 26-year-old has hit .226/.334/.381 in parts of six seasons in the minor leagues.
  • The Phillies have acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Orioles for cash considerations, the teams have announced. Nix will head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 32-year-old was hitting .167/.190/.198 in 100 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, and he struggled in brief stints in the big leagues last year with the Phillies, Pirates and Royals. In parts of seven seasons in the Majors, he’s hit .212/.282/.345. The move gives the Phillies infield depth after the recent promotion of Maikel Franco and their decision to have Cody Asche transition to playing outfield.
  • The Rays have signed former Pirates pitching prospect Kyle McPherson, Steve Kinsella of DRaysBay tweets. McPherson pitched 26 1/3 strong innings with the Bucs in 2012 after posting a 3.22 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and an extremely stingy 1.2 BB/9 in 67 innings in the high minors that year, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and another elbow injury last season. He became a minor-league free agent last fall.


AL Notes: Cherington, Blanton, Lindor, Street

Explaining his presence in Oakland during a tough stretch for his club, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered some words of general wisdom for the sometimes overly-eager interpretation of his movement outside of Boston. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Cherington says that he flew out to join the team as part of a previously-planned, monthly effort. “If something is going I need to be there for I’€™ll go,” said Cherington, “but 99 percent of the time it’€™s just what is scheduled. As GM, I don’€™t remember ever being with the team on the road where it just hasn’€™t been part of the schedule.” The same, often, holds true of top execs being present to see amateur talent. “Somebody will make a deal of me being somewhere to see an amateur player. It’€™s almost never about seeing that player, but rather that’€™s the opportunity to go spend some time with your scouts and connect with them,” Cherington explaned. “I’€™m not sitting in the draft room and saying, ‘€˜I saw this guy on May 13 and this is what he did.’€™ I’€™m just not doing that.” Of course, the Kremlinologists among us will note that Cherington’s words provide perfect cover for more surreptitious missions.

  • Royals righty Joe Blanton has an opt-out opportunity tomorrow, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. Kansas City hopes to keep Blanton, with Flanagan writing that the expectation is the veteran will be “patient” in assessing his options. Certainly, given the state of the K.C. rotation, Blanton can reasonably expect to earn a shot at some big league innings at some point this year. The Royals staff is just one of many subjects touched upon by Steve Adams and myself in today’s AL Central-centric podcast (check back at about noon central for that).
  • The “timing isn’t now” for Francisco Lindor to reach the Indians roster, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter links). That assessment is “not at all” due to an effort to avoid Super Two status, says Antonetti. Instead, the club believes that Lindor — who has not forced his way up with his play at Triple-A — simply needs more time. Cleveland is hurting for production at shortstop at present, though it is not clear that Lindor would be an immediate upgrade over the scuffling Jose Ramirez.
  • Last night, Huston Street inked a two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels. As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter, Street was motivated in part by a desire to play for a competitor. “It’s multiple years where I have a chance to really matter,” he explained. On the financial side of the ledger, my own opinion is that Street could and would have earned more on the open market — which is generally the case, of course, but is especially true given the somewhat less top-loaded relief market expected next winter. Then again, the decision to pass on some future earning opportunity to lock down a guarantee in a situation he favors is eminently understandable; such is the tradeoff that must be made to avoid the risk of a full season’s workload, especially for a low-velocity reliever.

Quick Hits: Blanton, Farnsworth, Winston, July 2, Venezuela

Royals righty Joe Blanton has rejected several opportunities to play in Asia, tweets MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. The 34-year-old veteran, who has an opt-out date of May 15, remains committed to working his way back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013. Blanton has produced a 3.71 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 through 26 2/3 Triple-A innings this year with Omaha.

  • Another long-time big league right-hander, Kyle Farnsworth, has other athletic endeavors in mind. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, the 39-year-old former reliever is now suiting up on the defensive line for the Orlando Phantoms — and is credited with 11 sacks, the second-highest tally in the Florida Football Alliance. (Attentive fans will recall that Farnsworth showed some gridiron promise at times on the diamond.)
  • Speaking of football-baseball crossover, top overall NFL pick Jameis Winston will not be appearing on a mound any time soon, according to Darren Heitner of Forbes (via Twitter). Winston, a promising righty at Florida State, has a clause in his deal that will preclude him from pitching while under contract with the Buccaneers.
  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez takes a look at this year’s top July 2 prospects. Some of the names will be familiar not only to international prospect followers, but also to general baseball fans. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already received plenty of attention, but Vlad Sr.’s nephew Gregory Guerrero and Fernando Tatis Jr. are also among the top 30 prospects with big league bloodlines.
  • Meanwhile, the Mariners are indeed pulling the plug on their operations in Venezuela, per Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. The move had been reported back in March, though the team declined comment at that time. Costa takes an interesting, but sobering, look at the decline of the academy system in the struggling country. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos expressed dismay at the diminishing opportunities for hopeful young ballplayers from his home nation. Of course, Ramos himself endured a terrifying kidnapping ordeal in Venezuela after reaching the big leagues. Now, he says he is applying for a green card in hopes of establishing permanent U.S. residency.

Royals Notes: Hochevar, Morales, Flynn, Madson, Blanton

The Royals are facing a slew of roster decisions as the regular season draws near, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star provided updates on several players today. Let’s take a look (all links to his Twitter account)…

  • Luke Hochevar, who inked a two-year, $10MM contract this offseason, will begin the year on the disabled list. Manager Ned Yost told McCullough and other reporters that he hopes to have Hochevar ready to go by May. Adding a healthy Hochevar to the already exceptional trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera would give the Royals one of the most dominant bullpens in recent memory.
  • Though he hasn’t been given official word of making the roster, there’s a “high probability” that Franklin Morales will be on the roster. Morales chances of making the team likely increased when Tim Collins went down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery.
  • Another lefty, Brian Flynn, has been one of the best relievers in camp this spring but has created a dilemma due to the fact that he has options remaining. Adding Flynn to the roster could mean risking the loss of out-of-options righty Louis Coleman or non-roster invitee Ryan Madson.
  • Madson has a “gentleman’s opt-out” at the end of camp that allows him to field MLB offers from other clubs if he is optioned at the end of camp, and while he’s expressed a willingness to pitch at Omaha, he will understandably take a big league offer if presented with one.
  • Veteran right-hander Joe Blanton has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. Blanton allowed three runs on 13 hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings this spring as he hopes to make a comeback at the Major League level. He’ll serve as a depth piece at Omaha, and one would think that a good performance there would position him as one of the first lines of defense should the Royals lose a member of their big league rotation.

Joe Blanton Nearing Opt Out Date

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported back in February, Joe Blanton has an April 1st opt out clause in his contract with the Royals.  The pitcher, who is a non-roster invitee with KC, is still in big league camp and throwing well.  Blanton, 34, signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City in February after sitting out the 2014 season.  He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter, but the Royals have been intent on using him exclusively as a reliever.

Blanton took a year off from the game to spend more time with his wife and three children, but over the winter he told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game.

“It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explained. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.”  

At the time of the interview with Crasnick, Blanton indicated that he was open to pitching at Triple-A.  As Blanton continues to impress, it’s conceivable that there could be a big league opportunity for him elsewhere if there’s not a spot for him on KC’s varsity squad.

Blanton has long posted strong strikeout-to-walk numbers and continued that trend even in his difficult 2013 season with the Angels (7.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9).  All told, Blanton has a lifetime 4.51 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 1567 1/3 Major League innings.


AL Notes: Frieri, Hamilton, Blanton

Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is already helping new reliever Ernesto Frieri make adjustments, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes. “That’s why I’m here,” says Frieri. “He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.” The Rays have helped veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joaquin Benoit improve their stock, and Frieri hopes to be the next in line. The 29-year-old is coming off a terrible season with the Angels and Pirates in which he posted a 7.34 ERA and struggled mechanically. His 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and good velocity suggest he might have more gas in his tank, however, even if his fly-ball tendencies make him homer-prone, so he could be a bounce-back candidate if he can make the right adjustments. Here’s more from the American League.

  • MLB plans to be compassionate in the case of Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton after his relapse, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report. The league is expected to suspend Hamilton for 25 games or more, but for less than a full season, although an official decision is not close. Hamilton’s relapse violated the terms of the treatment program the league required of him when he was reinstated in 2006 following a lengthy suspension.
  • The Royals will use Joe Blanton exclusively as a reliever, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” says Ned Yost. “We’re not going to stretch him out.” Blanton, 34, recently signed a minor-league deal with Kansas City after sitting out the 2014 season. He has spent almost his entire ten-year big-league career as a starter.

AL Central Notes: Blanton, Joba, Crain, Albers, Twins

Joe Blanton, who is in Spring Training with the Royals on a minor league deal this year, missed the game more than he thought he would upon briefly retiring in 2014, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Blanton spent his year off with his wife and three children, but he tells Crasnick that he felt he owed it to himself to take one more shot at the game. “It was nice being home with my family,” Blanton explains. “But the window is small. I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve put a lot into it, so why not see what’s left? I felt like it was almost an injustice to myself to just step away like that.” Blanton recognizes that there may not be an immediate path to the Major League roster in Kansas City and is open to pitching at Triple-A. “I didn’t play in 2014, and 2013 was a terrible year,” says Blanton. “That’s two years of basically nothing — no good work or no playing at all. So I’m kind of starting back at square one, really.”

Some more news and notes from Blanton’s new division, the AL Central…

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Joba Chamberlain turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs to return to Detroit, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter links). Talks between the two sides picked up over the past few days and came together last night, Beck adds. “He really wanted to come back,” Dombrowski said.
  • Non-roster invitees Jesse Crain and Matt Albers could be significant boosts to the White Sox bullpen if healthy, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He tells Merkin that he’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year. As for Albers, Merkin interestingly notes that he nearly signed with the White Sox last offseason but instead chose to sign with the Astros, where he missed nearly the entire year after tearing a muscle in his shoulder.
  • Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Molitor worked with pitchers and catchers to outline the ways in which the Twins need to improve on holding runners to help limit the running game, specifically focusing on tendencies throughout the staff that other teams exploited in 2014. Perkins spoke highly of Molitor’s baseball acumen and teaching ability, and Mackey writes that Molitor’s wealth of knowledge and attention to detail could boost the Twins’ on-field product if he’s able to communicate everything effectively.

Joe Blanton Signs Minor League Deal With Royals

10:40am: The Royals have announced the signing, noting that Blanton will be in Major League Spring Training. Heyman adds that Blanton can receive $3MM worth of incentives, and his contract contains opt-out clauses on April 1 and May 15.

10:33am: Veteran right-hander Joe Blanton has agreed to a minor league contract with the Royals, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). The 34-year-old CAA client would earn $1MM were he to make the Major League roster, Heyman adds.

MLBTR noted Blanton’s comeback attempt and the bullpen session he was slated to throw for teams back in late January. The longtime Athletics and Phillies hurler hasn’t been in the Majors since 2013, though he does have a history of being a durable innings eater at the big league level. Blanton topped 190 innings in six of his nine full seasons at the Major League level and only has one significant injury — a 2011 shoulder impingement — on his track record.

That said, Blanton’s first and only season with the Angels (after signing a two-year, $15MM deal) was ugly. He worked to a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings due largely to an inability to keep the ball in the park (2.0 HR/9). Homer problems began to plague Blanton upon moving from the spacious O.Co Coliseum to the more hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in 2008, but his homer woes were never as pronounced as in Anaheim.

Were he to make his way onto the Royals’ roster, the spacious nature of Kauffman Stadium would likely be of some benefit to Blanton, although it’s worth noting that Angel Stadium in Anaheim is also thought to be a pitcher-friendly environment (though not to Kauffman’s extent).

Blanton has long posted strong strikeout-to-walk numbers and continued that trend even in his difficult 2013 season (7.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9). All told, Blanton has a lifetime 4.51 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 1567 1/3 Major League innings. The Royals’ rotation currently projects to include Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie, so there’s little room for Blanton on the big league roster outside of a possible role as a swingman. However, he could also head to Triple-A in hopes of cracking the roster in the event of an injury to (or decline from) one of the current starters.