Eagles Should Keep Asante Samuel

Eagles Should Keep Asante Samuel

They wouldn't... would they? Nah. Even if they wanted to, they
couldn't... could they? The Eagles have already challenged some commonly
held perceptions about how the organization is run with their recent
spending binge. Yet despite going out and turning the notion that the
franchise operates on the cheap on its ear, it's still hard to believe
they actually intend to carry three Pro Bowl cornerbacks into the 2011
season.

It's not even simply a matter of cheap or not.
Conventional wisdom would suggest the club can't keep Nnamdi Asomugha,
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel, sign all of the other
free agents they already did, and also take care of business with their own
guys. With the trade winds kicking up though, it needs to be said that
the Birds can—and absolutely should—keep the trio in tact for a potential Super
Bowl run.

Many people understandably began jumping to conclusions
right away when the Eagles announced the Asomugha signing. "Who's out?"
quickly turned into "What's happening to Samuel?" He would be the most
logical odd man considering the other two had only been acquired in the
previous 48 hours.

Because he is effective
The first reason that could conceivably be a
very big mistake is because Asante Samuel is still one of the best
players in football. In fact, last season was one of the best in his
eight-year career. His seven interceptions were impressive enough, but
that number doesn't quite do him justice. According to Football
Outsiders
, quarterbacks only tested Samuel 36 times in 2010. That means
nearly one in five passes thrown his way were picks.

In fact, by their measurements, Samuel had a better season than Asomugha. And while we're not as familiar with the situation in Oakland, here it was pretty attractive for opposing quarterbacks to throw at Dimitri Patterson's side last season. Simply put, there are not many players in the NFL with better instinct and ability.

Sure,
with the arrival of Asomugha—another shutdown corner who quarterbacks
rarely look at—and Rodgers-Cromartie, the case can be made Samuel is
expendable anyway. That's not entirely untrue. Having said that, the organization
isn't in a position where their hand is being forced.

Because the team can
Looking at
the contract situations for all three, Asomugha obviously comes in as
the top dog. He'll make $10 million in 2011. Samuel comes in at a close
second with a cap figure at $9.3 mil. Finally, Rodgers-Cromartie will
earn just under $1 million. DRC's cap figure is what makes the entire
thing work. Naturally he'll be rewarded with a raise and extension,
likely next season. Coming off a subpar year in Arizona
however, the Eagles aren't necessarily required to move on that now. (Numbers via eaglescap.com)

They can also release Joselio Hanson and free up a couple million there.

Meanwhile,
the Eagles can look to get cap relief from a potential Samuel trade
next off-season, when the All Pro corner might be looking to renegotiate
in the first place. The guaranteed bonus money in his contract is
minimal after this season, and even though his base salary is still
hefty in 2012 and '13, the future will be heavy on Samuel's mind when he
turns 31 in January. At that point, the Eagles could make the exchange,
which in turn would free up the money to re-sign DRC, who will be on the final year of his rookie contract.

And what's
the rush for? While management entertains offers for their Pro Bowl
corner, they shouldn't even consider a swap unless the return on their
investment is outrageous. The primary consideration has to be what will
help the team most this year: high draft picks next April (keeping in
mind that player-for-player trades are somewhat rare), or a stud
ballhawk in their secondary. After all, barring a catastrophic injury,
his value shouldn't plummet much at all between now and March, when they
will inevitably part ways over his contract. In other words, those
picks will be there.

Because it's what's best for him
As for Samuel's alleged unhappiness with the
current situation, we're not sure that has anything to do with
welcoming Asomugha and DRC. His confrontational attitude seemed to be
more of a response toward reports the front office is listening to trade
offers, and not so much the influx of talent in the secondary. If that
is indeed the case, you could gather that Samuel actually wants to stay,
and be a part of this so-called "Dream Team."

After all, there
really is no reason for Samuel to demand a trade, and according to his
agent, he has not done so. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has not
indicated Samuel's role on defense would change, and the team has not
requested he take a paycut or renegotiate. Plus, right now it's just
hype, but Samuel has to realize Philadelphia is his best opportunity to win
another championship this year.

That puts the decision entirely
in the hands of the front office. Maybe the right deal comes along,
something they absolutely can't refuse. We'll evaluate that trade
if/when it happens. With what we know now though, there should be
unanimous support from the fan base for keeping Samuel in midnight
green. The pressure is on this year, and the Eagles shouldn't be taking
any bullets out of the chamber.

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Having seen his team's offense produce just six hits and one run in the previous two games, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders on Tuesday night.

The benchings could last more than one game.

"I'm not going to tip my hand because I don't know what my hand is yet," Mackanin said. "I feel like I have to do something to get some offense in the lineup and there comes a point in time where I’m trying different things.

“At this level you’ve got to produce. You want to play, you’ve got to hit and they have to understand that. Nobody is here on scholarship."

Franco and Saunders opened the season hitting fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Phillies' batting order.

Entering play Tuesday, Franco was hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage.

Saunders was hitting .227 with a .273 on-base percentage and a .383 slugging percentage.

Franco was leading the team with 28 RBIs and tied for second with six homers, but his inconsistency and inability to harness his free-swinging approach was wearing on Mackanin. Franco swung wildly at breaking balls on Monday night and struck out twice. The 24-year-old third baseman has worked hard on developing a more disciplined approach with hitting coach Matt Stairs, but has been unable to consistently incorporate those adjustments into his game.

Mackanin said he was surprised by Franco's consistent struggles. He hoped the benching would take some pressure off the player.

"Befuddled is a good word," Mackanin said. "As much as he works in the cage and on the field in batting practice and does it right, when he gets in the game his head is still flying and his bat is coming out of the zone.

"You’ve heard me say this many times: Hitting is like riding a bike. I can’t teach you to keep your head in there. I can tell you to do it, but you have to do it on your own and he’s got to figure it out. Guys have to figure it out. They have to figure out how to get the job done. Whether it’s cut down on your swing, choke up, use a different bat, use a different stance, do something different. If you make outs the same way over and over, it’s not going to change."

Andres Blanco started at third base in place of Franco and Ty Kelly was in the lineup in left field with Aaron Altherr moving into Saunders' spot in right.

Quite notable was that on the same day that Franco and Saunders went to the bench, Howie Kendrick ramped up his rehab from an abdominal strain. He took batting practice outdoors for the first time since the April 15 injury. He could be ready for a minor-league rehab assignment later this week and be ready to play in the majors next week. Kendrick can play both corner outfield spots and both corner infield spots, so he could push Franco and Saunders for work if he hits and they continue to struggle.

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.