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Phillies deserve the backlash from Wetzler fiasco

Phillies deserve the backlash from Wetzler fiasco
Wetzler is at the mercy of the NCAA now. (Photo: CBSSports.com)
February 21, 2014
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On Wednesday night a story broke that quickly exploded on Twitter.

For those who know or follow college baseball and the draft, the story was that two players the Phillies drafted last year Ben Wetzler and Jason Monda, drafted in the 5th and 7th round respectively, had been reported for negotiating with an agent after they had been drafted by the Phillies.

If Ben Wetzler is a name familiar to Indians fans, it is because back in 2010 he was drafted in the 15th round by the Indians. That 2010 Draft has turned into one of the all-time "guys who got away" draft's as Cody Allen, Bobby Wahl, Burch Smith and Ben Lively where all drafted that year and failed to sign.

The story has mostly centered around Wetzler because Monda was cleared of charges and is allowed to pitch. Wetzler though is still waiting. It is amazing the ace pitcher of the number two team in the country is made to wait. On the other hand, if a star quarterback was in the same situation I highly doubt he would have missed a single game before the situation was resolved. If anyone out there thinks it has any reason other than money well then the NCAA has it right where they want you.

The Phillies front office has taken it on the chin a lot during the offseason, but this move ended up generating the most negativity I have seen for any team this offseason.

Before I go into why this is a big deal, I need to be honest. I often have kids and families reach out to me. In time I have gotten to know a few players, most of the time they are just curious what I know and what I hear about the player they are related to. I am always honest and respectful. It has to be hard to be in the situation where you are still mostly a kid but are stuck in the public eye.  So I do have a major bias on this topic. Then again, I find it hard to look away when a group of men try and sabotage a young man’s life because he didn’t sign the deal the grown-ups thought he should sign.

When I have talked with these players I can tell you each and every one has mentioned an adviser; most of these advisers become agents after the player signs a deal and becomes a professional. Is this technically against the rules? Maybe, but it’s more of a work around than a breaking of the rules. It does not change the fact everyone does it, and everyone ignores it because it’s become mutually beneficial.

Since the draft added a hard slotting system, it changed everything in terms of the draft. If you fail to sign a player in the top 10 rounds you lose all the slotting money, so not signing a top 10 round pick is huge. Teams and players have discussions and basically know what it will take to sign a player. This way teams can figure out finances and get an idea of who to target with each pick and how much they have to spare. This is now necessary for teams, otherwise you end up drafting players you hope you sign and risk getting nothing.

I am sure a few people are wondering if maybe the two players demanded more money or backed out of promises. I find this unlikely as an adviser who backs out of deals is not going to be trusted and it can make teams avoid working with them. I also heard the reason was the Phillies drafted both players then treated them like senior type signs and offered way under slot.

(As a side note I am sure the Indians could have done the same thing with Ross Kivett last year. I am sure they were not happy he did not sign and they lost their slot value but they did not result to this approach by the Phillies.)

In the end this was a horrible decision by the Phillies. It might hurt Wetzler but it hurts the Phillies much more. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America broke this story and he reported talking to agents who are upset. A mad agent who thinks he can’t trust you means it is going to be harder to get information on a player's cost for fear that you might use this information later against the player.

Here is an exact quote from Fitt’s Twitter on Thursday: “One agent: "As of today, Phillies are out. Phillies are not getting into any more of our households. We're shutting down all communications".

This is a big deal for the Phillies, one that I don’t think they thought would be a big deal a few days ago. I think they thought it would be swept under the rug. Instead here it is a day later, the story is gaining steam and the backlash is occurring. We won’t know the full repercussions until after the draft. In the end money is the bottom line, agents can talk but this might all blow over. Until then, though, this is a story that bears watching because it could change the system if players can’t have advisers because in the end it will be bad for everyone.

Wetlzer is still not a top 100 player. Reporting a college kid who was never going to get big money seems like a low blow by a big franchise, and I for one am hoping to see Wetzler pitch soon for Oregon State. It’s a loaded team that has more than a few prospects fans should be watching, and it will be even more fun once they get their ace back in the fold.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at jellis121@yahoo.com

User Comments

Gary
February 22, 2014 - 3:38 PM EST
The bottom line is money and that is all nothing else. Does this hurt the Phillies (no) for like I said money talks
Roger
February 21, 2014 - 11:33 PM EST
20% of the season is the latest i heard as punishment. He may be there for anyone in round 3 or 4 and being left handed cant hurt. AS a question if an advisor is a certified agent by MLB to me he is acting as an agent just doesnt give the kid signing bonus however in these cases it appear agent and advisor are synonomous terms. The phillies could have and should have just not said anything to mlb about it. But i think the ncaa is trying to say something to affected athletes such as dont submit for the draft unless you are planning on signing and in any event dont use an advisor who is certified as an agent.
Willie
February 21, 2014 - 3:13 PM EST
Walter,

I think there's a chance they draft him again. I look for a pitching heavy draft from the Tribe. There's a ton of HS arms with talent, plus lots of depth.

I would suggest he might be a MOR-BOR type SP if he hits his ceiling. Monda is possibly a platoon / bench type player, IMO. Good baseball players, nothing to be overly excited about.
Daingean
February 21, 2014 - 2:39 PM EST
"had been reported for negotiating with an agent after they had been drafted by the Phillies."

Negotiating with an agent means losing college eligibility. For the Phillies to use this tactic is really low (if it was them). Now the kid misses playing as a senior (at least at this point).
Andrew
February 21, 2014 - 2:04 PM EST
And he can't play because....?

You never say it in the article (or you buried it somewhere between talking to yourself during the article for no good reason). Don't assume we've read other stuff on this.
Walter
February 21, 2014 - 1:25 PM EST
What are the chances that Wetzler get drafted by the Indians again. Is he a legit SP prospect? And Monda?

Daingean
February 21, 2014 - 12:46 PM EST
As far as the spring, it sucks that he isn't able to pitch in his senior season (at this time). As far as going the independent route, he doesn't have to because a lot of college pitchers get shut down or have lower pitch counts in their signing year to off set work load. It would behove him to sit out and have a full load with professional coaching staffs. That is unless he's worried about draft status. He can hold independent work outs as he gears up for pro ball.
Willie
February 21, 2014 - 12:18 PM EST
I think without a doubt this affects who will sign with the Phillies.

As far as this hurting Wetzlers draft stock, I think he's still likely to get drafted anywhere between the 3-10 rounds. Possibly on the low end if he doesn't get to pitch a lot, but if he does get to pitch I think he gets drafted in the 3-6 rd range.

Wetzlers will have options...independent ball or something like the Northwoods league. If I recall correctly James Paxton a top prospect from the Mariners org. did that. IMO, it would benefit Wetzler to continue pitching, and remaining active. Plus it would still allow scouts to see him.
Walter
February 21, 2014 - 11:45 AM EST
NCAA is just like the government. They only care about themselves and pretend that they are the champion of the student athlete.

Would this hurt Wetzler draft status this upcoming draft.
Daingean
February 21, 2014 - 9:15 AM EST
There's also the NCAA angle here that I find unsavoury. The NCAA should be a organisation that stands up for the student-athletes. Instead they are all about themselves. This should have been resolved before the season began.

Also if the Phillies did report them for this, MLB should have stepped in and declared these guys FA because of unethical negotiating practices.

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