The Phillies’ decision to turn in an unsigned college draft pick to the NCAA for engaging the services of an agent acting as an advisor appeared this week to at least temporarily hurt their standing in the eyes of some agents who take care of those college baseball players. It also might, in turn, have an adverse effect on their opportunities to sign some players later.
One agent had said the “Phillies are out.”
The Phillies apparently alerted the NCAA that Oregon State left-hander Ben Wetzler had procured the services of an agent, an apparent violation of the no-agent rule, in negotiating with the team. Wetzler had decided to go back to Oregon State. But now because of the Phillies’ whistle-blowing, Wetzler’s case is still pending and he cannot pitch for the Beavers as the NCAA continues their investigation.
Will this “blow-back” on the Phillies give a boost to the Nationals, who reside in the their same National League East, or any other major league team looking for collegiate talent? Aaron Fitt, national writer for Baseball America, and author of the original piece detailing the Phillies’ actions, says that’s not likely.
“Problem is it’s not a free market,” Fitt told me. “Players still have to sign with whomever drafts them. I think Philly might find it harder to get in touch with players about signability and things like that, but when push comes to shove, players’ hands are still pretty much tied.”
But I still think agents wield more power than some might think and when they get a list of team workouts, you can bet the Phillies workouts won’t be listed first. Additionally, college teams may exclude scouts from workouts at their own discretion.
It is food for thought and interesting look into the inner workings of how the draft system works from the collegiate level. It also exemplifies what a big decision it is for college players when they decide to forego a lucrative signing bonus and return to school and how tempting it is to just take the money get their pro career started. But it also begs another question: if college players think a major league team will tattle on them and their prospective agent, will they be more cautious in their negotiations?