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Blanton could be hot item in thin market

Blanton could be hot item in thin market

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have little to do after signing Cliff Lee to a $120 million contract last week.

But there is one significant move remaining. They are trying to trade right-hander Joe Blanton.

Philadelphia blew up its budget to sign Lee, even though he is making a relatively modest $11 million next season. The Phils need to move salary to give them flexibility at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and for next winter, when Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Raul Ibanez and possibly Brad Lidge (if his 2012 club option is not exercised) become free agents.

Blanton became the odd man out when Lee signed, not because of his performance, but because of his salary. Blanton is scheduled to make $8.5 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012.

In conversations with baseball sources since the Lee deal, Blanton should not be difficult to trade. And the Phillies might not have to eat much (if any) of his salary, because they will be looking for little in return. Teams are looking for starting pitching, and few viable options remain, making Blanton attractive.

Teams like the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals and Minnesota Twins make sense. The Yankees and Rangers lost the Lee sweepstakes. The Nationals took a stab at Lee, too. The Tigers have been looking for a bottom-of-the-rotation starter for some time, but have not found one. The Twins could be interested in Blanton if they can't resign Carl Pavano.

Pavano might be the most attractive free agent on the market at the moment. (Brandon Webb remains available, too.) But FOXSports.com made an interesting comparison between Pavano and Blanton, who is nearly five years younger. Blanton has a slightly better career ERA (4.30 to 4.34) and strikeout ratio (5.8 to 5.7) than Pavano, while Pavano has a slightly better career WHIP (1.334 to 1.343) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.54 to 2.32).

Statistically, there is little difference between the two.

But teams already know how much Blanton will cost, and they only have to make a two-year commitment to him. Teams love cost certainty and flexibility.

Besides Blanton, the Phillies still could be in the market for a relief pitcher, since their $1.1 million deal with left-hander Dennys Reyes fell through.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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