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.

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