You’ll recall that the Phillies drew a ton of criticism over the winter when it was revealed that Ben Wetzler, the Oregon State pitcher who the Phillies selected in last year’s draft, was suspended for 11 games this season. The reason: his ultimately unsuccessful negotiation with the Phillies was handled by an advisor/agent and the Phillies ratted him out to the NCAA about it.
Now, on the eve of the 2014 draft, Marti Wolver, the Phillies’ scouting director, is defending himself and the organization, saying people got their facts wrong and he and the Phillies did everything by the book:
“Every year Major League Baseball sends out an email and asks specific questions about players that did not sign, who they were represented by, and people send it back in,” he said. “Then it’s up to the NCAA whether or not they want to pursue it. That’s what we did. We sent the information in and left it at that and then it went from there.
“The NCAA did the investigation, not the Philadelphia Phillies.”
He says that people all around baseball have told him he did the right thing and that the only thing he regrets is selecting a player who had no intention of signing.
And frankly, this smells like total b.s. If it’s par for the course for teams to say which unsigned players used agents and it’s par for the course for MLB to share that with the NCAA, why aren’t more players suspended like Wetzler was? Everyone uses agents or advisors despite NCAA’s stupid and counterproductive rule against it. Only Wetzler got nailed. I suspect because, contrary to what Wolver says, the Phillies did or said something out of the ordinary in this case.
He says that the Phillies aren’t going to be harmed in the draft as a result of last year’s Wetzler thing. I suppose we’ll see. But it strikes me that any college player who is selected by the Phillies would be very wary of negotiating with them given what happened last year.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.