According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos attended the Phillies-Orioles yesterday afternoon and left after Phillies starter Joe Blanton was finished pitching. It has been no secret that the Blue Jays are in need of another starting pitcher and Blanton is certainly available, but he battled elbow problems for almost the whole season in 2011 and is due to make $8.5-million this year. Obviously any deal involving Blanton would likely see Philadelphia eating some of that salary, especially if any kind of real asset were to head the other way.

But should the Jays want Blanton?

Obviously, we don’t know for sure what Anthopoulos was doing in Clearwater yesterday; yes, it could have been to scout Blanton first hand, but perhaps he was there for some other reason and his timely exit could have been entirely coincidental. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend that he was there to see the 31-year-old righthander and is interested in acquiring him.

At first glance, Blanton seems like an entirely average pitcher. In fact, since his arrival in Philadelphia part way through the 2008 season, he has been as close to average as you can get. He hasn’t been what you would call an “innings-eater,” but he also averaged 189.2 innings pitched from 2008 to 2010 and never had any particularly serious injury problems before last year.

In 2011, albeit in a very small sample size (just 41.1 innings), Blanton had a very good 3.89 K/BB ratio which would have been a career-high had he been able to keep it up. The introduction of a sinker allowed him to increase his groundball rate to 55% despite a career mark of just 44% and as a result pitched to a 3.15 xFIP and a 3.21 SIERA. Now, obviously, this is a very small sample size, but the results are encouraging.

Yes Blanton has seen a marked decline in his overall value since leaving the friendly confines of the Coliseum in Oakland, but he’s still not worse than average provided he’s healthy. Is there anything wrong with having a fairly reliable average pitcher in your rotation? Given the question marks that exist outside of Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, I’d take Joe Blanton. Hell, I’d even consider taking the entirety of his $8.5-million salary if it meant not giving up anything terribly useful in return.

If we use FanGraphs’ $/WAR analysis, Blanton would only have to be worth 1.7 fWAR in 2012 to justify his salary. I’m willing to bet he ends up better than that provided he pitches in 180 innings or more and if he can continue to find success with his new sinker, maybe he becomes a bargain.

And the rest:

Jose Bautista (aka Tater Jesus) homered twice in yesterday’s Grapefruit League game against the Houston Astros [Gregor Chisolm, MLB.com].

Yoenis Cespedes went 2-2 with a walk against the Reds in his first Spring Training game with the Oakland A’s. The second of his two hits was a line drive over the leftfield wall off of Jeff Francis [Barry M. Bloom, MLB.com]. I’m officially a Cespedesphile.

Angels slugger Mark Trumbo finally got a chance to play third base in a live game yesterday[Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register]. I’ve previously been critical of such a move, he did make a very nice diving catch off the bat of Joaquin Arias [MLB.com].

Picking up right where Tony LaRussa left off, Mike Matheny is angry with the Marlins and the MLBPA for how they handled yesterday’s rain delay and players’ meeting in Jupiter [Jenifer Langosch, MLB.com].

Although it was feared Chris Carpenter’s neck problem was related to a potentially career-threatening nerve issue, it is apparently just the result of a bulging cervical disc [Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch]. It’s unknown whether or not the soon-to-be 37-year-old will be ready for Opening Day, but this is encouraging news for the Cardinals regardless.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty will talk to Brandon Phillips’ agents once they get into town this week regarding an extension for the second baseman [Mark Sheldon, MLB.com]. Phillips is scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end and will make $12-million this year after the team picked up his option.

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