Put me in the camp who says Joe Blanton has pitched "well enough to win" this year. No, he has not lived up to hopes and expectations, mostly due to an out-of-the-blue tendency to offset five solid innings of work with a lousy 6th. But the problem isn't that Blanton isn't pitching well enough to win. The problem is that he isn't pitching well enough to win for a team like the A's.
Blanton is generally going to pitch deep into games and will give his team a great chance to win if they can score 3-5 runs. He is not, however, going to win a lot of 2-1 games. So on the A's, he often pitches "just well enough to lose," whereas on a team with a good offense but a weak rotation and/or bullpen, Blanton could be a tremendous addition.
The goal of a trade isn't actually to fleece the other team, it is to help both teams. The idea isn't to pawn your overrated players onto a team willing to accidentally give you their most underrated players, because this rarely happens. The idea is to identify trades whose players, by swapping, can serve their new team more than they served their old team.
On a team like the Tigers or Indians, Yankees or Red Sox, Brewers, Braves, or Cardinals, Blanton could be an outstanding performer, winning the games he is consistently losing for Oakland and greatly improving his team's rotation - and we have seen, up close and personal, how important starting pitching is to keeping a team competitive.
I don't think the A's should trade Blanton because he's 3-9. I think a team should acquire Blanton because for them he might be closer to 9-3 for them right now. So why is Blanton still here? Probably not because Beane wants to keep him so much as because other teams don't realize how effective he might be, as is, for them.
In other news...I'm fine with it if the A's decide to go with three left-handed hitting OFers because in Buck, Gonzalez, and R. Sweeney, you have players who are 22-23 years old who are far too young to become platoon players. They need either to learn how to hit lefties well at the major league level or show the A's that they cannot be played full-time, and 2008 is the year to figure this out. Even adding Cust (and Thomas) to the equation, there's enough playing time to go around, with occasional days off for each, injuries, pinch-hitting, and so on. Just let them start against LHP and take their lumps if need be. The alternative is Emil Brown, and the upgrade is marginal, offset by the defense, baserunning, and lack of long-term potential.
Finally...why don't the A's activate Frank Thomas today and send Calero packing? Wouldn't you rather have Thomas available, for each of the next six games, for the late AB of your choice instead of having Calero sitting around for emergency mop-up duty? How nice would it have been to have Thomas on the bench when Suzuki faced Wang on Friday night? I would love to have Thomas waiting to face Taschner or Hinshaw in a key situation. I don't need to have Calero approaching Bowen with a pack of playing cards, looking for a third and fourth for bridge because they serve no other meaningful purpose.