Joe Blanton Rumors

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.


Joe Blanton Planning Comeback, Will Audition For Teams Next Week

Right-hander Joe Blanton is planning a comeback and will audition for teams on Feb. 4 in Nashville, Tenn., MLBTR has learned. Blanton will work out and throw a bullpen for those teams in attendance. Blanton has been on a throwing program in preparation for Spring Training, and as M. Blake Harrison noted (on Twitter) earlier this week, he’s been working out with Zach Duke — his neighbor in the Nashville area. Harrison also pointed out that the A’s are at least a logistical fit in theory, as Blanton has homes in California and Nashville (the new location of Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate).

Having just turned 34 in December, Blanton is perhaps younger than some may expect. He hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2013, when he struggled to a 6.04 ERA over 132 2/3 innings in his lone season with the Angels. Always one to post excellent strikeout-to-walk ratios, Blanton began to be plagued by home run problems in 2009, and those problems peaked in 2013, when more than 19 percent of the fly-balls hit against him left the yard.

However, Blanton was typically a reliable source of innings, clearing the 190 mark in six of his nine full seasons in the Majors. He’s had a relatively clean bill of health over the life of his career to this point, only missing significant time in 2011 due to an impingement in his right elbow. 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 innings of work between the Athletics, Phillies, Dodgers and Angels.


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Athletics Release Joe Blanton

TUESDAY: Blanton has been released by the Athletics, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. 

SUNDAY, 9:57pm: Fletcher now clarifies that Blanton has left the Athletics' Triple-A team, but it's unclear whether he's actually retiring.

USATSI_73481628:56pm: Longtime starting pitcher Joe Blanton has retired, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Fletcher notes that the Angels are still on the hook for the remainder of Blanton's $7.5MM salary for 2014, plus a $1MM buyout for 2015, even though Blanton has started two games for the Athletics' Triple-A team in Sacramento this year. The Angels released Blanton in March.

The Athletics drafted Blanton out of the University of Kentucky with the 24th pick in the first round in 2002, making him the second selection in their "Moneyball" draft class, after Nick Swisher. Blanton made his big-league debut in 2004, then became a regular in the A's rotation in 2005. After several years eating innings in Oakland, Blanton headed to Philadelphia for Josh Outman and two other prospects in 2008. Blanton pitched in the World Series for the Phillies in both 2008 and 2009, and the Phils signed Blanton to a three-year extension prior to the 2010 season. He stuck with the Phillies until 2012 before they traded him to the Dodgers for the stretch run that year.

Blanton then signed an ill-fated two-year, $15MM deal with the Angels, struggling while posting a 6.04 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 132 2/3 innings last season. Blanton, 33, finishes his career with a 4.51 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 1,567 1/3 innings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Athletics Sign Joe Blanton

The A's have signed right-hander Joe Blanton to a minor league deal and assigned him to Triple-A Sacramento, the team announced (on Twitter). By signing with Oakland, the CAA Sports client will return to the organization with which his Major League career began.

Blanton, 33, struggled tremendously in his lone season with the Angels after signing a two-year, $15MM contract last offseason. Those difficulties, along with a 7.08 ERA in 20 1/3 Spring Training innings with the Halos, led to his release last week. The Angels will still be on the hook for his $6.5MM salary and $2MM option buyout.

The former No. 24 overall pick posted a sky-high 6.04 ERA with 7.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate in 132 2/3 innings with the Halos last year. Despite a respectable ground-ball rate and solid K/BB ratios, Blanton was again plagued by a bloated homer-to-flyball ratio (19.1 percent). He's posted a well-above-average HR/FB mark in each of the past five seasons, leading xFIP (which normalizes HR/FB based on the league-average rate) to project ERAs that are consistently well below his actual results.

Blanton will serve as rotation depth for an Athletics rotation that will be without Jarrod Parker for the entirety of the 2014 campaign. Oakland also has a lot riding on the fragile arm of Scott Kazmir and has already seen an injury to A.J. Griffin come up as well, so adding Blanton as a veteran insurance policy makes some sense as a low-risk, moderate-reward option. While he doesn't come with significant upside, Blanton has proven himself capable of being a solid innings eater in prior seasons.


AL Notes: Scheppers, Rangers, Blanton, Worley

Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers has not only made his team's rotation, but he'll be Texas' Opening Day starter after Yu Darvish injured his neck. Scheppers has never started a game in the big leagues, having appeared in 115 games in the past two seasons as a reliever. As Elias notes (via FOX Sports Southwest's Anthony Andro on Twitter), that's unusual — the last pitcher to make his MLB starting debut on Opening Day was former Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela, all the way back in 1981. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • GM Jon Daniels says he expects recently-claimed infielder Donnie Murphy to make the Rangers' Opening Day roster, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says signing Joe Blanton was his fault, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. "It’s a mistake on my part, there's no one else to blame, I made the call on signing Joe," Dipoto says. The Angels released Blanton this week after he posted a 6.08 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 132 2/3 innings last season, then continued to struggle in spring training.
  • Twins assistant GM Rob Antony says a lack of consistency was one reason his team traded pitcher Vance Worley to the Pirates, reports Quinn Roberts of MLB.com. "He didn't throw as hard as he did in the past and couldn't get the ball down. He couldn't change some of the things he knew he had to," says Antony. Worley, who struggled badly in 2013, was out of options, and the Twins outrighted him before trading him for cash considerations.

Angels Release Joe Blanton

The Angels have released Joe Blanton, Angels communications director Eric Kay announced on Twitter. With the move, the club will eat $8.5MM (Blanton's 2014 salary and 2015 option buyout).

Needless to say, the signing of Blanton to a two-year, $15MM contract last year has not worked out for the Halos. Blanton, 33, threw to a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings last year, though there was at least some hope of a rebound given his 3.18 K:BB ratio and 3.84 mark in both xFIP and SIERA. Then again, Blanton has consistently underperformed against those metrics in recent seasons. While there had been some consideration of Blanton starting out in the bullpen, the club apparently decided to cut ties after a spring in which he surrendered 16 earned runs in just 20 1/3 innings.


West Notes: Beane, Fowler, Blanton

Baseball personnel believe Billy Beane of the Athletics is the best GM in the game, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes in a survey of scouts and executives.  "He continues to find ways to be ahead of trends," says one scout. Joe Maddon of the Rays and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals got the most votes for best manager, and the Angels' Mike Trout got the most votes for best player. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.

  • New Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler doesn't understand Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd offseason comments questioning his passion for the game, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. "I'm still trying to figure out where they're coming from," Fowler says. " 'Passion for the game' – I mean, you see me each and every day. This will never change. So I don't know where that was coming from." Fowler also tells Drellich he didn't know whether O'Dowd was even the Rockies' GM, or whether it was assistant GM Bill Geivett. (O'Dowd runs baseball operations, while Geivett runs big-league operations.) The Rockies traded Fowler to Houston in December.
  • Joe Blanton is bracing for an uncertain future with the Angels, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes. "Whatever happens, happens," says Blanton. "All I can do is just go pitch and try to make the adjustments in-game and keep working hard." Blanton has $7.5MM plus a $1MM buyout remaining on his contract, and does not have a spot in the Angels' rotation after a miserable 2013 season. The Angels could release him, or move him to the bullpen while they wait for their relief corps to get healthy.

AL West Notes: Astros, Mariners, Angels

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in attendance for North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon's start Friday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. The left-hander is widely considered the top talent in this summer's draft. In his outing, Rodon allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, walking four but striking out 12. While Luhnow wouldn't discuss Rodon specifically, he commented that the trip "made me miss my scouting days." Here are two more AL West notes:

  • A source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that the Mariners feel "no urgency" to trade infielder Nick Franklin, who appears to be without a position following the Robinson Cano signing. There's healthy interest in Franklin after the 23-year-old flashed promise in his 2013 Major League debut, but a trade "doesn't seem like a given at this point," Cotillo writes. 
  • Joe Blanton could change minds in the Angels organization with another strong start, Bill Shaikin writes for the Los Angeles Times. The team previously "did not even pretend" that Blanton was in competition for a rotation job, and he struggled in his early spring outings. The Angels' limited pitching depth will likely be a factor in their ultimate decision on Blanton.
  • Alternately, If the right-hander continues to show improvement and the Angels begin receiving calls on him, they would probably eat most of his salary in a trade, Shaikin says.

AL West Notes: Walker, Mariners, Blanton, Fielder

The Mariners announced today that Taijuan Walker will be shut down for the next week due to shoulder inflammation. It's a precautionary move, it would seem, based on manager Lloyd McClendon's comments. Said McClendon (via the Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton on Twitter): "This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014. Hopefully, we’re talking about the next 15 years." The injury doesn't appear major for the Mariners right now, but it's another reason for some concern in the wake of a finger injury to Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners will learn the results of his tests on that injury tomorrow. Here's more on the Mariners and the AL West…

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio feels that the Mariners should sign both Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales (ESPN Insider required). Bowden feels that the competitive nature of the AL East will make it too difficult for two Wild Card teams to come from that division. Assuming one Wild Card from the East, the Mariners could compete with the Rangers, Angels, Indians and Royals for the second spot, in Bowden's opinion. Adding that pair would also allow the club to hang onto Nick Franklin for the time being, allowing him to serve as a strong fallback option in the event of an infield injury.
  • The Angels aren't committed to carrying a long reliever in their bullpen, and as such they could trade or release Joe Blanton prior to Opening Day, writes Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Blanton could slot into the rotation in the event of an injury or should Tyler Skaggs need further minor league time, but his contract doesn't make him a lock for the roster in Shaikin's mind.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discusses Prince Fielder's impact on the Rangers' lineup as he analyzes the merit of lineup protection. Morosi also acknowledges the statistical evidence that it may be somewhat of a myth. Morosi spoke with several executives and players in his in-depth piece, with Rangers backstop J.P. Arencibia specifically stating: "Robinson Cano  is a guy that, hey, we’re going to pitch around him, bottom line," when referring to the division-rival Mariners.