A's trade Blanton to Philadelphia

A's trade Blanton to Philadelphia

OAKLAND -- A's general manager Billy Beane made it clear that he was looking more toward the future than the present when he traded four of his top players for 13 prospects over the winter, and his commitment to the future was underscored last week with his trade of Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs for four young players of considerably less acclaim.

On Thursday came yet another dramatic move suggesting that Beane wasn't swayed to change course by Oakland's surprisingly strong first half.

Right-hander Joe Blanton, the team's Opening Day starter and the subject of trade rumors for much of the past 16 months, was traded to the Phillies for three Minor Leaguers: second baseman Adrian Cardenas, left-handed pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer.

Beane's right-hand man, assistant GM David Forst, handled the conference call announcing the move.

"We started this process last November [and] December and said we wanted to build a foundation and put together a group of players who would be here a long time," Forst said, adding that the hope was to re-create "what we had at the beginning of the decade," when young stars such as Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Ramon Hernandez, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito helped put the A's back on the map.

"This is something that's been in the works for a while," Forst said.

Asked if he felt any empathy for fans who might be feeling disenfranchised, Forst was quick to the point.

"I understand their concerns," he said, "but we're trying to build something that's going to last."

The A's, who have used the disabled list 18 times, head into the second half of the season training the front-running Angels by six games in the American League West.

"We still like the team we have," Forst said.

Blanton, who went 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 first-half starts for the A's, long anticipated this day.

"I've been hearing I was going to get traded for so long, you kind of have to figure there's fire where there's smoke," he said. "And Philly was the last team I heard I was going to. ... It's a business, but the game's the same wherever you go. I'm pretty sure the mound's the same in every park."

Blanton, Harden and Gaudin were the only starters who opened the season in Oakland's rotation who had experience as full-time starters. The departure of Blanton, who started on Opening Day, leaves converted reliever Justin Duchscherer, an All-Star who leads the Majors with a 1.82 ERA, as the team's unquestioned ace.

Rookie lefty Greg Smith, lefty Dana Eveland and righty Sean Gallagher, who won his A's debut last Friday after coming to Oakland in the Harden/Gaudin trade, are the other holdovers in the rotation. Outman has pitched primarily in relief this year and is ticketed for Double-A Midland upon reporting to the A's organization, so it's possible that Gio Gonzalez will be promoted from Triple-A Sacramento, giving the A's three southpaw starters.

Gonzalez, acquired in the offseason deal that sent Nick Swisher to the White Sox, is 7-6 with a 4.34 ERA this season with Sacramento.

"Gio's definitely pitched well enough to put himself in the conversation," Forst said. "I don't know if he's going to be the guy."

Outman, 23, was named the Phillies' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season and was 5-4 with a save and a 3.20 ERA in 33 games (five starts) at Double-A Reading with the Phillies organization.

Spencer, 22, was hitting .249 with six home runs and 41 RBIs in 84 games at Clearwater in his first full professional season. He was drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and will be sent to Class A Stockton.

Cardenas, 20, was batting .309 in 67 games with Class A Clearwater and ranked seventh in the Florida State League in batting average. He was leading the Threshers in batting and triples (6), ranked second in runs (44) and was tied for second in stolen bases (16). Drafted as a supplemental pick following the first round of the 2006 Draft, he was ranked by Baseball America as Philadelphia's No. 2 prospect going into 2008.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.