Eagles Mailbag: Doug Pederson's calls, Corey Clement, Carson Wentz's attempts

Eagles Mailbag: Doug Pederson's calls, Corey Clement, Carson Wentz's attempts

I never know what to write at the top of these mailbags, so here it goes. 

I answered some of your questions yesterday (see story)

I'll answer more now:

I think Pederson will continue to be aggressive. I guess the real question is, how much? At times last season, Pederson pretty much admitted he was being so aggressive because the Eagles weren't really playing for much, so maybe he'll reel it in a little bit this season. But I think if Pederson really is aggressive by nature, he's going to continue that. 

It's funny you ask this now because I actually thought about some of those gutsy play calls when the team signed LeGarrette Blount last week. The Eagles weren't great in short-yardage situations in 2016, but Blount is very good in those same spots. Maybe Blount will be able to bail out his head coach this season. 

This is a tough question to answer because there are so many factors that go into it. For instance: If a team is down early in a game, the quarterback is gonna throw a ton of passes. And even though the Eagles signed Blount, will Pederson abandon his pass-run ratio? That seems unlikely. And how much of a difference-maker is Blount at this point in his career? Probably not enough to make the Eagles a run-first team. 

Let's start with the numbers. Last year, on his way to setting a rookie record for pass attempts, Wentz threw 40-plus passes in seven games. The same number of games as Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer. Only Joe Flacco (11) and Drew Brews (10) had more. 

Guess what? I think that's just going to be Wentz's game under Pederson. Wentz is the Eagles' biggest weapon and they're going to live or die by his arm. He keeps airing it out in 2017. 

The Blount signing might have been good news for the Eagles, but it was terrible news for Corey Clement. The big back from Glassboro, New Jersey, might have actually had a chance to make the Eagles' 53-man roster, but that chance pretty much evaporated when Blount's pen hit paper. 

So, yeah, the practice squad would probably make sense. After all, Blount is on a one-year deal, so maybe Clement can be that big-bodied running back of the future. I'd say Clement has a pretty good shot of landing on the 10-man practice squad. 

As for the running backs on the roster, I'd expect four: Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey. 

Well, I haven't even seen the team practice together in shorts yet, so this is a bit early. But I'll play along. 

I think there's a good shot the Eagles win anywhere from seven to 10 games. Is it possible they win fewer games than they did in 2016? Sure. But I think it's unlikely as Wentz and Pederson enter Year 2 with some actual weapons. 

For the most part, I think the Eagles have improved this offseason, but there are still notable question marks, starting with their corners. That's a huge worry. The offense should be better in 2016, but what about the defense? Even though Jim Schwartz's unit was actually the strength of the team during most of last season, that's where many of my question marks are. 

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, Alshon Jeffery stats, possible trades

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, Alshon Jeffery stats, possible trades

The offseason is rolling right along. 

We're past the flurry of free agency and the draft, and OTAs start Tuesday. More on that during the week. 

For now, let's get to your questions: 

Well, let's start with the best linebacker on the roster, Jordan Hicks. I think Hicks is probably one of the most under-appreciated players on the team. He had a fantastic 2016 season, and perhaps more importantly, was able to play in all 16 games. He finished the year with 95 tackles and five interceptions. His five picks led the team. The area Hicks needs to improve — and he's admitted it — is against the run. But he actually had a pretty good excuse last year. After tearing his pec, he wasn't able to gain upper-body strength. His plan this offseason was to get bigger, which he thinks will help him improve as a run-stuffer. If he can, he's a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

After Hicks, the linebacker position becomes a little murkier. 

The other two starters are Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks. Bradham actually had a really good season in 2016 but is entering the final year of the two-year deal he signed before 2016. While he was good on the field, he wasn't so good off it. He had two separate run-ins with the law, the more serious one being an incident in Miami that resulted in a felony assault charge. Bradham is set to go to court for that incident in July. 

Then, there's Kendricks, who is still on the team … for now. Unless the Eagles are able to trade him, Kendricks will continue to be a starter but will come off the field in nickel and dime situations. Not ideal, but he wasn't completely terrible in 2016. 

After that, there's not much depth. Najee Goode is a good special teamer and an OK backup. The team really liked 2016 seventh-rounder Joe Walker before he tore his ACL in the preseason. He's been recovering well and is the front-runner to be the team's top backup. And keep an eye on Steven Daniels. He was a seventh-rounder of Washington's last year out of Boston College but never got to play because of injury. 

Then, there's Nate Gerry. Don't know what to think of the rookie just yet. He's making the transition from college safety to NFL linebacker. 

Nope. That wouldn't be good enough. 

That would be better production than Jeffery has had in each of his last two seasons (and those would probably be around the right over/under numbers for him), but that's not the production the Eagles want out of him in 2017. They need him to return to his 2013-14 form. 

Jordan Matthews has had more productive seasons than 65 receptions and seven touchdowns. Jeffery ought to be able to put up better numbers. If he does, there's another payday in it for him. 

Ward doesn't have a real shot to make the Eagles' 53-man roster. Just too many guys ahead of him. 

But he is an intriguing prospect. For those who don't know, Ward was a dual-threat-type quarterback for the Houston Cougars, but he's transitioning into a receiver at the next level. He didn't run a great 40 time at his pro day (4.58) but he might have a future as a receiver/returner. The problem for him is that future isn't immediate. 

Last year, the Eagles kept David Watford, who was making the same transition, on the practice squad. Having a player like that around makes sense, especially if the team can find a way to use him for their scout team. The practice squad is always a good landing spot for projects like Ward, so he'll have a chance to earn a job there. 

Sure. The Eagles will be opportunistic if an opportunity presents itself. They really were planning on entering the season with Sam Bradford as the starter in 2016 until Teddy Bridgewater went down in Minnesota. 

I'm not sure how much value Kendricks has, but I'd image Kelce would be more in demand. Kelce isn't nearly as bad as some think he is and after a year with an awful O-line draft class, he'll have even more value. The Eagles have stockpiled talent on the interior of their line, so they could get by without him. If he's still on the team, though, Kelce will be the starter. 

Phillies Mailbag: Werth hindsight; Altherr-Hoskins plans; and, of course, Mike Trout

Phillies Mailbag: Werth hindsight; Altherr-Hoskins plans; and, of course, Mike Trout

Once upon a time, there was a bag filled with mail, all of it pertaining to the Phillies.

This is an interesting question, and obviously, we have the benefit of hindsight.

Time sure does fly because this is the final year of Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals.

The Werth deal was almost universally viewed as an overpay back in the winter of 2010-11. He was entering his age-32 season, and though he'd stayed healthy the previous three years, he did have an injury history. 

But, surprisingly, the Werth deal has kind of worked out for Washington. Over the course of the deal, he's hit .268/.359/.438 for a .797 OPS which is 16 percent better than the league average. He's averaged 33 doubles, 23 homers and 80 RBIs per 162 games.

The downsides of the Werth deal are that he missed half the season in 2012 and 2015, resulting in an average of 40 games missed per season during the contract. 

But still, he's been a solid outfielder when healthy for Washington, and $18 million per season is about the market rate for a player with his skills.

But to answer the question at hand ... no, even with hindsight, I don't think matching Washington's offer would have been wise, even though the Phillies have badly needed offensive help during Werth's contract. Again, he was entering his age-32 season and there was at least a 50-50 chance the final few years of the deal would be regrettable.

The Phils had given Ryan Howard his (regrettable) $125 million extension about six months earlier and had various other big contracts on the books. You can't pay everybody.

Let's start with Hoskins.

You'll see him at some point this season. He's just been too productive for the Phillies to hold down all year. On top of the home-run power that he's shown at every minor-league level, Hoskins has also improved his approach every year. He controls at-bats now. He's reduced his strikeout rate and boosted his walk rate, a trend that began during the second half last season at Reading and has continued at Lehigh Valley.

I asked Phillies GM Matt Klentak on Friday about his plans for Hoskins and he said this:

"Look, this is Rhys' first taste of Triple A. He's off to an incredible start, though I'll add not necessarily all that more incredible than what he did at Lakewood, where he was awesome, what he did at Clearwater, and what he did at Reading, where he was also awesome. He's just a really good offensive player. 

"We're pleased with that but I'm not ready to concede that after 90 plate appearances that Tommy Joseph has forgotten how to hit and we're going to turn to Rhys at this early stage. That's not to minimize what Rhys has done, he's been outstanding, and he's outstanding in key areas. His pitch recognition skills continue to improve, he hits with power to all fields, he does a lot of the things we want to see. He's a month into his Triple A career and we're happy to let him continue to get at-bats there."

Complicating the situation is the number of potential first basemen the Phillies have. Joseph would need to have another poor month for the Phillies to legitimately consider turning the page on him, but he's been picking it up of late, going 7 for 21 (.333) with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs in seven games in May.

When Howie Kendrick returns from the DL in about two weeks, the Phillies will probably use him at first base some to keep Aaron Altherr in the lineup. So there just isn't an everyday spot for Hoskins at this time. 

But Rhys will get his chance. There's almost no way that both Kendrick and Michael Saunders will be here after the trade deadline, so one of those moves would aid Hoskins' cause.

As for Crawford, the Phillies will likely give him a full season at Triple A in 2017 unless he just goes on an epic hot streak and Freddy Galvis stops hitting altogether or gets hurt.

Hey Marshall! I wasn't going to answer this because you temporarily forgot my last name last week on the Phillies Postgame Show, but it's a relevant question.

When everyone is healthy, my ideal lineup would be:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
6. Howie Kendrick, LF
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS

Putting Hoskins here over Joseph because despite the Phillies' logic I outlined in the answer above, I just think he has more offensive upside than Joseph. And at 24 years old, the time for Hoskins should be now. That's my opinion.

He's more than a viable option — he's the Phillies' best player right now and that's not an exaggeration. 

Altherr is the closest thing they have to a five-tool player. He has power, speed, defensive instincts, range and a strong arm. He's the Phils' best defensive outfielder and right now their most impactful bat.

Now, I don't expect Altherr to sustain this .338/.427/.631 batting line. But he can certainly hit .280 with 20 homers, 30 doubles and 12 to 15 steals if he plays every day the rest of the way. 

There's just a lot to like about Altherr's development. He's healthy and he's changed his hand placement at the plate, which has resulted in a quicker swing.

He's also recognizing pitches better and taking his walks. Altherr has reached base in 15 of his last 27 plate appearances.

While I do think Altherr is the Phils' best defensive outfielder, Herrera has made legitimate strides in center field this season. His routes aren't always perfect, but his reaction time has been better and his makeup speed allows him to make some high-degree-of-difficulty catches.

Arm-wise, Altherr is much better.

But I still don't think the Phillies will move Herrera out of center field for Altherr. Nowadays you hear many young players say center field is actually the easiest of the three outfield spots because the reads are truest and you don't have to worry or learn about the tail of flyballs going away from you.

Because of those reasons and Herrera's inexperience in the corner outfield, I think they keep Herrera in center and Altherr in a corner for at least the duration of 2017.

Herrera, Altherr, Hernandez and that's it. I can't even definitely say Maikel Franco will be starting every day for the Phillies in 2020 because there will be impressive free agents at his position (Manny Machado, for example) who move the needle more than Franco.

To this point, Franco has been a decent run producer but he doesn't get on base enough or have a consistent enough approach at the plate. To be honest, I don't think he's ever going to develop the skills necessary to control an at-bat and make pitchers feel like they must handle him with care. One at-bat doesn't seem to dictate the next for Franco. He'll get hot for two nights and then go 1-for-12 and chase a handful of pitches out of the strike zone the next three days.

Well, it's been only two starts for Pivetta. But a troubling trend so far has been that he's thrown first-pitch strikes to just 19 of 48 batters, which is 20 percent below the league average of 60 percent.

Pivetta has good stuff — a 94 to 96 mph fastball and a sharp slider. He's gotten 20 swings-and-misses through two starts, which is a good sign.

The keys for Pivetta over the next few starts are working ahead of hitters, whether that means throwing a get-me-over breaking ball for strike one or trusting his fastball enough to not try to throw it in a pinpoint location on the first pitch. He also needs to use the inner part of the plate more. To this point, he's utilized mostly low-and-away sliders and fastballs high in the zone for his whiffs.

It's apparent to me, at least, that Pivetta has more upside and potential than Jake Thompson.

Wouldn't be a Phillies mailbag without one mention of Mike Trout, would it?

If forced to pick one, I'd say the Phils have a better chance at landing Harper in free agency. Why? Because Trout is controlled by the Angels through 2020, and if they do ever decide to trade him (which I still think never happens), there will be 29 teams calling the Halos.

So in that scenario, the Phils would have to trade an exorbitant amount of young talent to beat other offers and land him. It would probably still be worth it because Trout is on a path to ending up as one of the top five players in baseball history.

The Angels probably won't even consider trading Trout until about 2019. And even then, does an offer of Franco, Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and two top prospects who aren't yet proven get it done? I'd guess no. 

But you know what would improve the Phillies' chances of getting Trout in a trade? Taking on Albert Pujols' mammoth contract, which runs through 2021. There aren't many teams that would be capable of taking on that contract. It would be the Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and maybe nobody else.