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Phillies scouting director defends himself in the wake of the Ben Wetzler incident

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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.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.