Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler has been suspended since the start of college baseball season. The NCAA is investigating whether he retained the services of an agent to negotiate with the Phillies, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2013 but were unable to sign him. Now it seems the Phillies have snitched on him, so that if he won't play for them, he can't play his senior year of college either.
Aaron Fitt of Baseball America is all over this story (the Phillies also reportedly tattled on sixth-round pick Jason Monda, who was cleared by the NCAA last week), and it's despicable on multiple levels.
First, the Phillies, who offered Wetzler a reported $400,000 signing bonus to skip his senior year. This almost goes without saying, but nearly every single prospect does what Wetzler did and has a professional help, whether it's a full-on agent to conduct negotiations, or merely a financial advisor to guide a kid through the intricacies of contract language. And never does the MLB team throw a shitfit and rat him out, because they understand this is how things are done fairly.
(Almost never. The last time something like this happened was in 1992, when high school catcher A.J. Hinch declined to sign with the White Sox and enrolled at Stanford. White Sox executive Larry Monroe ran to the NCAA and told them Hinch had retained an agent. The NCAA would eventually clear Hinch, but not before his father died of a heart attack.)
Why would the Phillies do this? It is almost inexplicable. They have nothing to gain—Wetzler is gone, and Philadelphia will receive a compensatory sixth rounder this summer—and everything to lose. Non-senior prospects generally indicate their "signability" before a team selects them. You should now expect very few of them to be open to talking with the Phillies. If, as MLB.com's Jim Callis surmises, the Phillies ratted out Wetzler in anger for not signing with them, it's petty, vindictive, and ultimately self-defeating.
But the Phillies are just useful idiots in this situation. The real outrage should be reserved for the NCAA, whose inflexible "no agent" rule is illogical and immoral. If Wetzler retained an agent to help him negotiate a pro contract, one he ultimately declined to sign, it did zero harm to amateurism. He is not being paid. No one is making money off him. The rules say a player can retain his eligibility even after being drafted—so why take away his agency to make a full and informed decision on whether to return to school or go pro?
These are kids. Sometimes teenagers, sometimes dealing with contracts in the millions of dollars. They don't know what they're doing, the NCAA wants to make sure it stays that way, and the Phillies are eager to help.