Skip to content

Did the Phillies Really Almost Get Bobby Abreu Back to Use as Burnett Bait?

Feb 20, 2012, 3:01 AM EDT

We knew the Yankees were interested in Abreu. And we knew the Phillies were interested in swapping Blanton for Burnett. But did both things nearly happen in concert?

The Phillies’ Joe Blanton, who sounds as though he spent the entire offseason on the trading block, has reported to Clearwater with the rest of the pitchers and catchers.

The funny thing is, he almost didn’t make it.
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Sunday night the Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t the only team interested in beleaguered tattoo enthusiast A.J. Burnett. Prior to the Yankees closing the deal with the Pirates to send Burnett and just under two-thirds of his remaining salary to Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers and a bag of baseballs, it is alleged that the Phillies nearly made a play to acquire the now-former Yankee’s services.
We knew the Yankees were interested in Abreu. And we knew the Phillies were interested in swapping Blanton for Burnett. But did both things nearly happen in concert?
An alternate reality after the jump…

What the Phillies tried to do last week, sources said today, was trade Joe Blanton for Bobby Abreu, then flip Abreu for Burnett.
Feb 20 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

The Phillies’ hope was that Burnett for two years would’ve provided at least a bit of a safety net in the event Hamels walks away as a FA.
Feb 20 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

That’s right, the Phillies nearly traded Blanton to Anaheim for former Phillie (and former Yankee) Bobby Abreu, who would have been promptly sent to New York in exchange for Burnett. Granted, it would have made sense for the Yankees, who would have both unloaded Burnett and got the designated hitter they’ve been shopping for, but would it really have made sense for the Phillies?
Though Olney does great work, it’s tough to believe the Phillies front office could view Burnett as any kind of safety net for a potential Cole Hamels departure. Honestly, over the past two seasons, Hamels has averaged a 2.93 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. On top of that, he was one of only three starting pitchers in the Majors to a post a sub-1.000 WHIP in 2011. The 35-year-old Burnett, on the other hand, well…he hasn’t posted an ERA under 5.15 in the past two seasons. Really, the guy gave up five earned in six innings in Game 4 of the ALDS against Detroit and they nearly threw him a parade in the Canyon of Heroes.
We’re not arguing Olney is wrong, we’re just hoping the Phillies brass wouldn’t have actually seen this as, again, “a bit of a safety net.”
All that said, if you remove Hamels from the equation and look only at Blanton, it’s not all that crazy. Rather than paying Joe Blanton $8.5 million in 2012, the Phils could have opted to pay Burnett $13 million (total) over 2012 and 2013, assuming they would have gotten the same price break as the Pirates. Coming off a milieu of injuries in 2011 and 4.82 ERA in 2010, Blanton is far from a sure thing in his own right.
As for the Yankees, indications were last week that they would be using the cash freed up from the Burnett trade with the Pirates to re-sign Eric Chavez and close a deal with another former Phillie — Raul Ibanez. That deal, according to the Associated Press, was to be valued around $1 million ($11 less than the 39-year-old left fielder made last season). If such a plan is still in place, Ibanez would presumably DH for the Yankees in 2012.
Sure, the deal is dead now, but how would you have reacted to the Amaro & Co. dealing for A.J. Burnett (or to the mere mention of Bobby Abreu back under contract in Philly)?
[h/t 6ABC for the story]