Phillies sticking with Joe Blanton for Game 4 start … for now

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With the NLCS tied 1-1 following Roy Oswalt’s gem last night the Phillies are still planning to start Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the series Wednesday.

However, there’s plenty of speculation that Charlie Manuel would instead turn to Roy Halladay on short rest for Game 4 if the Phillies are down 2-1 and the manager did nothing to rule that out yesterday, saying: “We’ll just take it day to day and see what happens.”

Asked if bringing back Halladay on short rest was an option being considered, pitching coach Rich Dubee replied: “We haven’t talked about it yet.” Obviously the Phillies have “talked about it” and the attempts to avoid the topic seemingly make it clear that Blanton’s chances of starting Game 4 with the team down in the series are pretty weak.

It’ll be a moot point if Cole Hamels beats Matt Cain tomorrow, so Manuel and Dubee are smart not to delve into the issue unless they need to, but in this case the non-answers are almost as informative as answers. Blanton hasn’t started a game since September 29, but he pitched very well down the stretch and by moving Halladay up to Game 4 the Phillies would have to move Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels up as well, which would result in the final four games of the series all being started by pitchers on short rest.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.