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Joe Blanton Talks Diminish, Theo Epstein And Red Sox Dodge Bullet

After acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford this offseason, many believed that Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox were done with their big money moves and they would simply focus on addressing their immediate needs.

Yet it looked like general consensus would be wrong again when rumors surfaced on Tuesday that the Red Sox and Phillies were in talks that would have sent pitcher Joe Blanton to Fenway Park.

Now, reports have indicated that there really wasn't anything behind the talks, and that the Blanton-to-Boston deal is dead. Thank you, baseball Gods!

Blanton, a seven-year veteran, would have reportedly been unloaded by Philadelphia following the signing of free agent lefty ace Cliff Lee in order to clear cap space. Blanton is projected to make $8.5 million in both 2011 and 2012.

After playing in Oakland for the first five years of his career, Blanton was traded to Philadelphia on July 17, 2008, in exchange for prospects Adrian Cardenas, Matt Spencer and Josh Outman. Blanton has a career 72-60 record with a 4.30 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP, 777 strikeouts and 335 walks. He is 47-46 with a 4.25 ERA in the American League and has a 25-14 record with a 4.38 ERA in three National League seasons.

While Blanton is undoubtedly a serviceable starter, one who is capable of starting in any Major League rotation (except Philadelphia's, apparently), his acquisition by Epstein would not have made much sense.

The Red Sox have six potential starting pitchers under contract as it is. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka make up Boston's projected five-man rotation entering the 2011 season, with Tim Wakefield available in the bullpen for the occasional spot start.

That being said, Epstein may have had a plan to use Blanton in the bullpen, but it would have come at a high cost. With Blanton being owed $16 million over the next two season, it simply makes more sense to go out and sign other available (and cheaper) relievers, like former Minnesota Twins reliever Matt Guerrier, former Angels closer Brian Fuentes or Twins' Jesse Crane.

All three would come with a high price tag, but it's reasonable to think that Boston could sign Guerrier and Crane at a cheaper price than Blanton.

Joaquin Benoit of the Tigers and Scott Downs of the Angels have been the league's highest paid free agent relievers this offseason, each receiving three-year contracts worth between $15-$16 million.

Fuentes would come at a steeper price, as the 34-year-old earned a whopping $9 million last season with the Los Angeles Angels and the Twins.

It's not inconceivable to think that Blanton would have been brought in to be a spot starter, as injuries to starting pitches are all to common at the major league level. The Red Sox experienced that first hand, with Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and others missing time the past few seasons.

Being the General Manager of the Red Sox, Epstein certainly had more than enough capital to make the move, but thankfully didn't. Now the Red Sox can focus on signing other relievers at a much cheaper price.