With the Angels Spring Training rotation set, it is apparent that the big question mark will be whether or not Joe Blanton will remain in an Angel uniform for 2014.
Jered Weaver is starting the first game today followed by C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs with Blanton starting on split squad days. This rotation is not much of a surprise but now it is clear what the Angels intentions are.
Barring any injuries or a poor spring from Skaggs, Blanton will either be in the bullpen or no longer an Angel. This is where things get tricky.
It would normally be an easy decision to let Blanton go, but the Angels are severely lacking in rotation depth and might need him to stick around in case of any injuries. As we saw last year, Weaver had a freak elbow injury early in the season and Tommy Hanson had a death in the family, causing all sorts of chaos in the rotation.
After Blanton, Matt Shoemaker is the next pitcher in line to take over a rotation spot.
Shoemaker, 27, has one career start in the majors, when he made his debut against the Mariners last season. He threw five innings, gave up two hits, struck out five and walked two while keeping the Mariners scoreless. A pretty nice Major League debut, but we should not expect that trend to continue.
Shoemaker greatly improved his peripheral numbers across 184 1/3 innings in 2013 at Triple-A Salt Lake, only walking 1.4 batters per nine and striking out 7.8 at the same rate. He did however give up 10.4 hits per nine. Shoemaker has always given up a lot of hits and it has been reflected in his 4.64 ERA, improved from his 5.65 ERA in 2012.
Shoemaker is not a terrible option, nor a great one, but beyond him there is a whole world of uncertainty. This makes a case for Blanton to remain an Angel.
It can’t get much worse than Blanton’s performance in 2013, so we can have hope that if he does pitch for the Angels in 2014, he will be better. Oliver projections have Blanton providing the Angels with .9 fWAR and a 4.36 ERA over 136 innings, much better than his -.4 fWAR last season. This improvement is largely due to his BB/9 and HR/9 moving back towards his career averages.
If Blanton remains with the team, he will likely serve as a long reliever until needed to fill a spot in the rotation. This will take up a roster spot for someone who might be more effective out of the bullpen, but will add some security if someone in the rotation were to hit the DL at any point this season.
If the Angels decide to let Blanton go, they can either eat the $8.5 million owed to him, or attempt to trade him hoping that a team is willing to take on any sum of his contract.
The Angels have a tough decision on their hands, but there is still plenty of time to see what develops over the course of Spring Training to determine Blanton’s fate.