Schoopin’ it out (with Manny Machado on the left)

My how things change. The Phillies have owned the NL East for the past five years, but this year has been a losing struggle to stay out of the cellar, a familiar feeling for many longtime fans. While the team’s winning ways have been a great time for all involved, they were an aberration. Although the folks counting the money are still having a blast, it seems that the 2012 team’s ship is returning to Port Mediocre.

But before docking, a few of the passengers may be departing. Names like Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre, and maybe (but hopefully not because it would be a fucking terrible idea on so many levels) Cliff Lee.

Let’s look at Big Joe Blanton, who really isn’t that big at all (the fat jokes are old, you guys). Twitter is blowing up today and some sick internet people are firing fake trade rumors from all angles, but when it comes to the truth-facts, this is what we know: the Phils are shopping Joe, a number of teams are interested, and at the top of the list is the maybe, just maybe could make it to the playoffs Baltimore Orioles.

Blanton’s been dependable for the Phillies. While he was the big trade deadline acquisition in 2008 during the run-up to the World Series victory, he’s never been a frontline guy. But he’s been a solid back of the rotation starter, especially before he was injured last year. They call him an “innings eater,” and he’s one that’s lined up a few good starts recently. His numbers in ’12 look like this: 4.59 ERA and a 1.193 WHIP over 21 starts and 133.1 innings. Decent, but his problem has been the longball, which has always been a problem for him, minus ’06 and ’07. On the positive side, he doesn’t walk a lot of guys (1.2 per 9 this year) and his ERA has plummeted over the past month. 4.50 ain’t pretty, but he’s made big strides this summer to fix it.

But what’s going on down in Baltimore, and more importantly, who should the Phillies be targeting for a return in a potential Blanton trade? While I’d ask for Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy just for a laugh, I know that even Dan Duquette would think that I was crazy. The name that has been bandied about as a potential return is top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop (pronounced “Scope”). The Phils want him, but the Orioles aren’t budging, at least not yet.

The Phillies need to do what it takes to get Schoop. The 20-year old Curacao native has played in 93 games this year for the AA Bowie Baysox, where he has put up a slash line of .244/.301/.391 with 17 doubles and 12 home runs. Nothing earth-shattering, but a high potential guy he is, and while prospects are a gamble, he’s a guy you want to take a chance on. He’s shown promise a level below in Frederick, and his excellent fielding and wiry power could very well lead to an above average major leaguer one day. Do it, RAJ.

Photo lovingly borrowed from Unlocking the Keys.