The Phillies Got Petty with a College Pitcher
Background for this story: the Phillies selected left-handed pitcher Ben Wetzler in the fifth round of last June’s draft. Wetzler, however, turned down the Phillies’ signing bonus of about $400,000 to return to Oregon State for his senior season. Wetzler was a first-team all-Pac-12 selection in his junior year.
According to Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt, the Phillies turned in Wetzler to the NCAA for “inappropriate contact” with a financial advisor. Fitt added:
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 20, 2014
Wetzler was suspended indefinitely by the NCAA last week.
Jim Callis of MLB.com interprets it as the Phillies being petty because Wetzler didn’t sign a contract with them last June. Callis also said this issue will make the agents of non-senior players drafted by the Phillies concerned about their ability to arrive at a deal.
Scout.com‘s Kiley McDaniel is a bit more harsh, writing that the Phillies will be viewed as untrustworthy:
The draft relies on agents/clubs working together, which is technically illegal. PHI just destroyed all trust: negotiations will be tough.
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) February 20, 2014
Fitt reported that the Phillies also tried to turn in first baseman/outfielder Jason Monda, taken in the sixth round last year, but he was cleared to play last week.
This whole situation is a mess for the Phillies. They had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose, which is why teams have rarely pursued these issues. And this is entirely ignoring the unfairness of the claim in the first place, but such is life when college athletes, sans union, are powerless against the NCAA. Wetzler may have broken the rules, but the Phillies come out of this looking poorly and it could hurt their ability to procure college talent from the draft going forward.