Understanding the Blanton trade rumors

(David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It's the beginning of spring training, so there must be Joe Blanton trade rumors.

"I wouldn't know what to do if they didn't come along," Blanton deadpanned Sunday morning. "I don't even pay attention anymore. It's a business. We all understand that. No one takes it personal."

The latest: The Phillies, according to numerous published reports, talked to the Yankees about A.J. Burnett, who was ultimately traded to Pittsburgh. To fit Burnett in the rotation (and payroll), the Phillies would have been forced to deal Blanton to another team, perhaps in a three-way deal.

That's where the reality of any Blanton rumor comes to a screeching halt. No one is trading for Joe Blanton, who pitched all of 41 1/3 innings in 2011, right now. That is, unless the Phillies eat all of his remaining $8.5 million salary. And the Phillies want to trade Blanton to free up money, so that's not happening.

Does that preclude a Blanton trade from happening later this spring? Certainly not. By reportedly inquiring about Burnett, the Phillies indirectly showed their hand; they are seeking an upgrade.

But Blanton must first prove his health in spring training before the Phillies are able to explore any other options. The righthander battled a nebulous elbow ailment for the majority of 2011. At the end of the season, he made two abbreviated starts and found himself in the bullpen for the NLDS against St. Louis. After that, Blanton pitched a few outings in instructional league play and reported no problems.

He'll begin spring training on the same throwing program as the rest of the pitching staff.

"I feel really good so far," Blanton said. "I didn't really stop throwing through the winter. I've had no problems."

Of course, Blanton's health is important regardless of where he's pitching. If the Phillies see improvement, they could keep him. If another team likes what they see in Blanton and is willing to assume a chunk of his salary, the Phillies could move him in the right deal.

But nothing is happening until Blanton shows he can take the ball without a hitch.

"I'm going to get ready regardless if I'm playing for Philly or somebody else," Blanton said. "My preparation isn't going to be different. In the back of your mind, when you're somewhere you want to be, you hope you stay. At the same time, unless you have a no-trade clause, it's out of your hands."

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