KC Royals: Joe Blanton Gave KC More Than They Expected
By John Viril
Lost in the glow of the KC Royals adding ace Johnny Cueto to the roster on Tuesday, the team designated pitcher Joe Blanton for assignment.
Honestly, Joe Blanton deserved better. General manager Dayton Moore signed the 34-year-old this winter as a long shot to make the roster. Blanton was convinced that he could still help a team despite retiring after suffering through a 2-14, 6.04 ERA season in 2013 with the Angels. During workouts this winter with fellow Nashville-area MLB veteran Zach Duke, Blanton became convinced he could still help a team.
He showed enough in workouts that Dayton Moore signed him to a minor league contract, and Blanton performed well enough in AAA Omaha that the Kansas City Royals added him to the roster in May.
Then the KC Royals suffered a string of injuries to their starting rotation. With three starters on the disabled list, the team turned to Joe Blanton to join the rotation in mid-June after 14.0 innings of 1.80 ERA performance out of the pen.
Blanton gave the Kansas City Royals two strong starts June 17 and June 22, going 11.0 innings while allowing two earned runs and racking up 11 strikeouts. At that point, Joe Blanton sported an outstanding 1.73 ERA in 25 innings pitched with a 2-0 record.
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Joe Blanton gave up nine runs in 7.2 innings over the next two games (both losses), followed by allowing three runs in 1/3 of an inning in relief during a 9-7 victory over Tampa Bay on July 8 (the day of Alex Gordon’s injury). By this time, Blanton’s ERA had bloated to a far less impressive 4.50.
But, Joe Blanton wasn’t done. He made three more appearances for the KC Royals in relief, allowing one run in 7.2 innings. He racked up two saves along the way, and subbed for an injured Jason Vargas in a win over Pittsburgh ace Gerritt Cole on July 22.
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Overall, Joe Blanton more than justified Dayton Moore’s faith in him. He showed that he, indeed, had something left—just like he believed this winter. Two wins and two saves are more than a fair return on Blanton’s league-minimum deal. He finished his Kansas City Royals stint with 41.2 innings pitched, 2-2 record, 2 saves and a solid 104 ERA+ (4% better than a league-average pitcher).
Now that the Kansas City Royals have designated him for assignment, the team has 10 days to trade Joe Blanton to another team. With Blanton on a one-year contract, the only teams who might cut a deal for him are ones in contention for at least a wild card position. Thus, the KC Royals might have a disincentive to help out a potential October rival.
Thus, Blanton is likely to hit waivers (and get claimed). There’s enough teams out there that need bullpen help, such as the Tigers, that Joe Blanton is sure to have suitors. He’s a guy that can be a long-reliever, and spot starter in an emergency.
Here’s a tip of the cap to Joe Blanton, who gave the Kansas City Royals more value than they could have reasonably counted on this winter.
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