Phils scouting boss has no regrets in draft controversy

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Phils scouting boss has no regrets in draft controversy

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.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.