A new report by Baseball America's Aaron Fitt accuses the Phillies of turning in their fifth-round draft pick last year, Ben Wetzler, to the NCAA, claiming the pitcher violated NCAA rules by hiring an agent to negotiate a contract with the Phillies.
The left-handed pitcher did not ultimately sign with the Phils and instead returned to Oregon State for his senior season. From Baseball America's report...
Several sources have confirmed to Baseball America that the Phillies, who drafted Wetzler in the fifth round last June but did not sign him, told the NCAA in November that Wetzler violated the NCAA’s "no agent" rule. That rule is widely disregarded by baseball prospects, whose advisers routinely negotiate with teams on players’ behalf, against NCAA rules—because that is the industry norm. As an American League scouting director told Baseball America in 2008, "Every single player that we deal with—I don’t care what round you’re talking about—has representation, has an agent."
Wetzler has not been allowed to take the field for the Beavers yet this year as he awaits word from the NCAA on his fate. Fitt also says the Phils did the same thing with sixth-round pick Jason Monda, who also did not sign with the Phillies and decided to play his senior year at Washington State. Monda was cleared to play by the NCAA last week.
Fitt says the Phillies aren't talking publicly about the report.
When asked about the Wetzler situation Wednesday, Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever told Baseball America, "I have no comment."
Of course, there are still lots of details to this story that remain in question, as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa noted...
The exact details of what happened are unknown -- were the team's decision makers on board with this, or did someone do it behind the boss's back? did Wetzler even do anything wrong? -- but based on what we know, this is a rather scummy move by the Phillies.
And with information still scant at this point, criticism of the Phillies is out there, but muted...
MLB/union should ask Phillies if they contacted NCAA about their signed draft picks, as well. http://t.co/5CCGLq3Rkm If not, this stinks.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 20, 2014
Bottom line re: Phillies: Teenagers negotiating with a professional sports team should have access to agents' representation.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 20, 2014
If it is discovered the front office ratted out these two amateurs out of spite, the public relations damage suffered by the team will be real. Young players on the fence considering whether to attend college or go pro may simply tell the Phillies not to draft them, limiting the pool of players from which the Phils can select. At the very least, it damages the team's reputation in the amateur market.
Hopefully, this is the case of a rogue person acting outside the desires and normal procedures of the Phils' front office. If not, this makes the Phillies look extremely bad.