Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever has arrived in town for the final stage of preparations before next week’s draft.
Wolever met with reporters before Thursday night’s game against the Mets and finally addressed his and the team’s role in the controversy that led to Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, a Phillies’ draft pick last June, serving an 11-game suspension at the start of this college season.
“The only regret I have is taking players that had no intent of signing,” Wolever said. “That’s the only regret I have.”
The Phillies selected Wetzler, a left-hander, in the fifth round. They were led to believe he would sign and made him an offer reported to be in the neighborhood of $400,000. According to Baseball America, the Phillies reported Wetzler to the NCAA for using an agent after he decided to pass up the offer and return to school.
The Phils also failed to sign their sixth-round pick, outfielder Jason Monda of Washington State. He was investigated by the NCAA but not suspended.
It is against NCAA rules to use an agent but most draft picks use “advisors” and everyone in the industry looks the other way.
The Phillies were portrayed as vindictive and spiteful for their handling of the Wetzler situation. Even general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted, “We probably could have handled things a little bit better,” during a March interview on WIP.
Wolever maintains that the situation was handled fine.
“We’ve always operated with integrity and we’ve been open and up front with kids and their advisers and we will continue to do so,” he said. “We’ve got a tremendous reputation, always have and always will.”
Wolever disputed reports that the Phillies “turned in” Wetzler to the NCAA.
“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.”
The concern heading into this draft, which begins next Thursday night, is whether the Phillies will feel any repercussions from the Wetzler situation. Will “advisors” and families tell the Phils to stay away from their kids?
Amaro said there has been no negative fallout with potential drafts picks.
Wolever said the same thing.
“It has not hurt us a lick, because each guy is an individual and every player is different,” Wolever said. “We’ve had nothing but good responses. I know a lot of negative publicity was drawn out of that. I realize a lot of people rushed to conclusions and judgment without knowing all the facts that went on, and we decided to stay out of it. It really was in the hands of the NCAA, so we let them do their job. We gave them the information they asked for and we let them do their job. As I said, to this point, we really have not had any problems with agents or players or families.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people in professional baseball who have come up to me and our group over the course of the year and said, “Thank you for what you did, you guys aren’t the bad guys in this situation.’”
Not everyone would agree with that.
But that’s Wolever’s side of the story, finally told.