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.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.