OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics traded away their second starting pitcher this month, dealing burly right-hander Joe Blanton to the Philadelphia Phillies for three minor leaguers on Thursday.
A's general manager Billy Beane swapped Blanton a week after sending Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs — and that's with his team very much in contention in the AL West, six games behind the first-place Los Angeles Angels.
"Philadelphia was aggressive," Oakland assistant GM David Forst said. "They made it clear they needed a starting pitcher to help out and we were able to get the deal done."
The minor leaguers involved are left-hander Josh Outman, who was in Double-A, and second baseman Adrian Cardenas and outfielder Matt Spencer, both players in Single-A.
The 27-year-old Blanton, a 14-game winner last season, was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts for Oakland. He has underachieved in 2008 in his fifth big league season after being the opening day starter in March against the Boston Red Sox in Tokyo.
"We've been attempting to upgrade our rotation and we feel like we've done that," Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. "We think Joe is a very strong, competitive pitcher that has the mental makeup to pitch productively in a pennant race. He pitches a lot of innings and takes some burden off the bullpen."
Blanton — who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — had been scheduled to pitch Friday night against New York at Yankee Stadium in Oakland's first game after the All-Star break. Forst said he had yet to discuss with manager Bob Geren who would fill Blanton's spot in the rotation. Gio Gonzalez, a candidate to be promoted, has been pitching well for Triple-A Sacramento.
Both Blanton and Harden had been rumored to be on the trading block over the past year.
Last December, Beane dealt ace Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And he traded aces Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in a three-day span in December 2004.
Beane and Forst said last offseason they are focusing their efforts on improving the club's farm system from the bottom up, and trading Harden and Blanton further backs that they mean it.
"We started this process last November or December and we said that we wanted to build a foundation and put together a group of players who were going to be here for a long time and sort of recreate what we did here at the beginning of the decade," Forst said. "We've made no secret that we're trying to build a longtime winner. We're trying to build something that's going to last. We want to be the ones who are being chased. We don't want to be doing the chasing."
Forst added that this doesn't mean the A's are writing off 2008, saying: "'08 still has a chance to be a good year. Beyond that is what we've done all this for."
All three players acquired by the A's will remain in the minors for now.
Cardenas batted .309 with six triples and 16 stolen bases in 67 games for Single-A Clearwater and ranked seventh in the Florida State League in batting average. Spencer hit .249 with six home runs and 41 RBIs in 84 games with Clearwater in his first full professional season.
Outman was 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA and one save in 33 games, including five starts, for Double-A Reading.