Just when we thought the youth would shoulder a large portion of the 2016 relief duties, the Los Angeles Dodgers went shopping on Tuesday and walked away with veteran righty Joe Blanton.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was first to report the one-year deal, which is worth a guaranteed base salary of $4 million. In addition, Blanton could earn $250K in incentives by pitching 50 innings, another $250K for 60 innings, and a further $500K if he eclipses the 70-inning mark.
After posting a 6.04 ERA in 132 innings with the Angels in 2013, Blanton retired and was out of baseball for the entirety of the 2014 season. He rediscovered his mechanics last year and settled in as a reliever with the Royals before being dealt to the Pirates for cash at the trade deadline.
In 2015 with the Royals and Pirates combined, Blanton recorded a 2.04 ERA and a 2.56 FIP in 32 relief appearances, with 62 strikeouts and 12 walks in 57 innings of work.
Blanton, who turned 35 last month, dominated right-handed hitters last season, holding them to a .204 BA and a .239 wOBA, thanks primarily to his reinvented slider.
This will be his second stint as a Dodger, having gone 2-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 10 starts in 2012 after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Phillies.
Blanton projects to be a long man/swing man type for the Dodgers this year, but the deal leaves many fans scratching their heads, especially considering the needs at the back end of the bullpen. Maybe the underlying reasoning was to replace the departed Juan Nicasio, even with Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger both being very capable in that capacity.
Newcomers Frankie Montas and Yaisel Sierra, who are both believed to be major league-ready and are valued highly as prospective starters, may have benefited tremendously from a swing man spot as their introductory role in the bigs.
Also, if Hyun-jin Ryu returns healthy and slots into the rotation immediately, Alex Wood could be the odd man out. Rather than sliding into a long man role, he’d be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma, where a huge, overcrowded situation already exists with starting pitching.
In light of everything, the front office could be guarding against a possible injury epidemic; or, perhaps a trade worthy of a much bigger headline may be on the horizon — conceivably in the form of a Mark Melancon or Jake McGee-type acquisition.
All the fun begins when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch exactly one month from today.
(Photo Credit: AP/newstribune.com)