Should They, Will They? Peyton Manning and the Eagles

Should They, Will They? Peyton Manning and the Eagles

You've no doubt heard the rumbling out of Indianapolis. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is currently locked in a staring contest with the Colts over a $28 million bonus due on March 8.

Manning, of course, has not played football in over a year, and various reports indicate he is not fully recovered from multiple neck surgeries, the most recent of which he underwent in September. Meanwhile, the team owns the first pick in April's draft, and they are expected to choose quarterback and "can't-miss" prospect Andrew Luck.

It's widely assumed the front office will not pay, and Manning will wind up a free agent in the next few weeks. There are already whispers as to where he could wind up, and there is even a murmur in Philadelphia. Should the Eagles pursue a Super Bowl-winning signal caller if he becomes available?

Colts owner Jim Irsay officially dropped the gauntlet on Tuesday, telling Mike Chappell of the Indianpolis Star he wants Peyton "to make the choice" to stay. In other words, Manning can remain with the organization that drafted him in 1998, as long as he is willing to renegotiate his contract.

In certain circumstances, that option might make sense, but Manning is better off testing the market at this point.

The Colts are in the midst of a complete rebuild, so most of the players, coaches, and executives Manning worked with are either gone or on the way out. It does not appear the team can easily compete for a championship next season -- with or without Peyton -- and with his replacement due to arrive during the offseason, a low-ball offer seems likely.

Manning stands to make far more money, and perhaps find a better opportunity to win now, by negotiating with a bunch of desperate franchises that are clinging to the hope a veteran quarterback might put them over the top.

Believe it or not, some people think the Eagles should be among the teams who pursue the four-time league MVP -- provided he is healthy, of course.

The first problem with that idea is Michael Vick.

For better or worse, the Eagles are essentially married to Vick for at least one more season. Vick's entire $12.5 million salary is guaranteed in 2012, so it's not like cutting him is an option, and that dollar amount coupled with whatever Manning expects to earn is far too much to invest in one position, in case you were actually entertaining the ridiculous notion of keeping both of them.

That leaves a trade, but shipping Vick out is not likely to happen either. Even if they found a partner willing to take on his contract -- and this is actually the easy part given its favorable structure, with the bulk of the guarantees paid off by the end of 2012 -- the Eagles would be hard-pressed to find fair compensation for a 32-year-old quarterback coming off a subpar, injury-riddled season.

Even supposing the return on Vick is not as important as the upgrade at quarterback brings us to issue number two: you are operating on the assumption Manning is, in fact, an upgrade at all.

This would be dangerous thinking.

There remains a very real possibility Peyton Manning will never play football again. Sure, he says he will, and no doubt Peyton is determined to get back on the field, but doesn't this situation set off some red flags?

Manning is trying to come back from multiple neck surgeries. As recently as six months ago, he sought stem cell therapy in Europe. He is finally tossing the pigskin around, but several initial reports claim there is a distinct drop in his velocity, and he has trouble or is unable to throw deep or across his body.

Manning turns 36 in March, which puts him well out of his prime, as he attempts to regain physical abilities that made him great. Should he somehow manage to overcome all of the adversity, it's very hard to believe he could ever be the same player.

Is 75% of Peyton Manning capable of winning a Super Bowl, and still better than 90% of the NFL's starting quarterbacks? Maybe, maybe not, but what about 50% of Peyton Manning? 25%? There is no question he has the football IQ to outlast his talent to a certain extent, which may make him effective enough to lengthen his career.

Yet there are dozens of guys who have hung around after their abilities had already eroded, and never won a thing.

Vick, for all his flaws, at least has his physical gifts still largely intact. A tick or two have no doubt been shaved off that 40 time, but he can still sling the rock, can still turn the corner on would-be tacklers, and can still create big, explosive plays.

Honestly, there is no discussion for Peyton Manning in Philadelphia right now. There is no guarantee he ever plays again, no guarantee he makes the Eagles better even if he does, and that's without a proper debate about Mike Vick's value, trade and otherwise.

When Manning hits free agency in the next few weeks, and the Arizonas and Miamis and Washingtons go searching for lightning in a bottle, as those franchises are wont to do, the Eagles should sit back and let them fight over the scraps. Vick might not be perfect, may never lead Philadelphia to the promised land, but at least we know what we are getting.

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Manning-fied Eagles' logo via Dave's Art Locker. Check out Manning face logos for every team in the league.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).