Mailbag: Blanton, Milledge, broadcasters, Coste

Could the Phillies be interested in Lastings Milledge? (Rusty Kennedy/AP Photo)

Hey, look at us, we're getting all fancy here. So for now on, if you'd like to submit a question for use in my mailbag, visit this page. With three weeks until the first workout for pitchers and catchers in Clearwater, Fla., let's answer some questions.

Gordon from Salisbury, N.C. asks: Will Joe Blanton be moved now, July 31st, or not at all in your opinion? A remarkable rotation if he stays and the only way I hope he’s traded is if something comes back to us, not just salary relief.

Colleague Bob Brookover laid out the argument for trading Blanton in Sunday's Inside the Phillies column. Recently, Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he doesn't feel comfortable trading Blanton. That can change, of course. He probably doesn't feel comfortable trading Blanton right now because it's hard to find a team that will take on the majority of Blanton's salary.

And if the Phillies are to move Blanton, it would be for that purpose. For the Phillies to receive one or two decent prospects in exchange for Blanton, they would likely have to pick up the tab on Blanton's remaining $17 million. Well, then why trade him in the first place? Prospects won't help right now and if you're going to pay Blanton, you might as well pay him to be your fifth starter and not someone else's third or fourth.

Do they necessarily need the payroll relief immediately? Hard to say. But if they need to make a move at the trade deadline, having some financial flexibility could come in handy. With three weeks until workouts begin, I fully expect Blanton to be in Clearwater. Will he head north with the Phillies at the end of March? That probably depends on how the market evolves. There may not be many teams with pitching needs (and willing to take on Blanton's contract) now. But should an injury or two strike during spring training, that could change. 

Mike from South Bend, Ind., asks: If we're looking to get younger and hit lefties, why not consider Lastings Milledge? 


Charlie Manuel is in the last year of his contract. Should the Phillies give him a new deal?

I suppose it is somewhat telling that Milledge was non-tendered by the worst team in baseball and has yet to sign a contract with just a few weeks remaining before spring training. He turns 26 near opening day and you would have to argue it's hard to give up on a guy that young.

Yet you have to wonder what the talent evaluators are seeing and hearing about Milledge's demeanor. He has always been cast as a problem child and two organizations desperate for young, cheap talent (Washington and Pittsburgh) have given up on Milledge in two straight seasons. Not good.

Yes, in limited action against lefthanded pitching, he was good. His slash line was .320/.414/.512 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 145 plate appearances vs. lefties in 2010. All four of his home runs were hit off lefties.

But then you compare him to Ben Francisco, and all other off-the-field issues aside, is he a better bet than what the Phillies already have? Doubtful.

Rick from Morrisville, Pa., asks: What kind of production can we expect out of right field this season? Will we see a platoon of Fransisco, Gload and Brown? Will this Phillies lineup struggle without the presence of Jayson Werth?

Firstly, I think you can take Ross Gload out of the equation. Yes, he was mentioned by Amaro earlier this off-season, but Gload has value as the key lefty bat off the bench. That's something the Phillies won't mess with.

We've all assumed a platoon in right field, but do not rule out someone taking full control of the job. Both Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown will have every opportunity to win playing time. If one player sets himself above and beyond the other, why wouldn't he be an everyday player?

Brown most certainly has the higher upside and the better skills. But Francisco is righthanded, and that certainly works in his favor considering the current dynamic of the Phillies' lineup. I've been mentioning Francisco as the favorite for the lion's share of time, but if lefty-righty balance wasn't a concern, Brown would have to be the overwhelming leading candidate. That said, if Brown has a big spring, can the Phillies really deny him a chance to play every day?

A refrain you will hear often in camp: "We're not asking these guys to be Jayson Werth." Werth had a fantastic season in 2010 and the team will need his lost production to come from other spots -- not just right field.

Richard asks: Have the Phillies signed Scott Franzke to a new contract to do Phillies games? Not hearing that he is not coming back, but will he and Larry Andersen be doing more TV?

For some reason, this was a nasty and unequivocally false rumor that spread this off-season. Franzke was under contract for 2011 long before the winter began and wasn't leaving for another job in baseball. 

As far as I know, the broadcast pairings and slots will remain the same for 2011 as they were in 2010. 

Matt from Washington Township, N.J., asks: Does Chris Coste have enough ML time to qualify for his pension? Is there a chance he will ever play again?

Odd one, but all questions are welcome here. Yes: Coste has enough service time to qualify for the pension. Beginning in 1980, players gained immediate eligibility for health benefits after one day on a team's active roster (essentially the 25-man roster) and needed 43 days to be eligible for the pension. Coste spent parts of four seasons in the majors, so obviously he has qualified.

Will he play again? We haven't heard anything about Coste since last June when he was released by Washington. Coste was waived by the Mets and picked up by the Nationals at the end of spring training last March but underwent Tommy John surgery just a few days later. He turns 38 next month and that's not exactly an easy thing to come back from. Won't be surprised if he eventually shows up somewhere as a minor-league manager.