Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler was selected by the Phillies in the fifth round in last June's MLB draft. As is standard procedure these days, he consulted with an agent while deciding whether to sign with the Phillies or to stay in school. He elected the latter.
In turn, the Phillies turned in Wetzler for the NCAA for contact with an agent and now he's been cost 20 percent of his senior year.
Oregon State University baseball student-athlete Ben Wetzler must miss 11 games (20 percent of the season) due to his involvement with an agent during the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the school and the NCAA, Wetzler sought help from an agent who attended meetings where Wetzler negotiated contract terms with the team.
NCAA rules allow a baseball student-athlete to receive advice from a lawyer or agent regarding a proposed professional sports contract. However, if the student-athlete is considering returning to an NCAA school, that advisor may not negotiate on behalf of a student-athlete or be present during discussions of a contract offer, including phone calls, email or in-person conversations. Along with the school, a student-athlete is responsible for maintaining his eligibility.
When an NCAA member school discovers a rules violation has occurred involving a student-athlete, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may ask the NCAA to restore eligibility. Oregon State submitted its reinstatement request Feb. 18. The NCAA then worked with the school to finalize the facts of the case. The NCAA provided the school and student-athlete with a decision today, Feb. 21.
Here are the problems with the NCAA rules (shocking, right?):
1. Notice that the statement doesn't say Wetzler signed with an agent. He "sought help" from an agent.
2. This is a major point of contention in this case -- and one that many people don't seem to grasp -- Major League Baseball's draft is much different than some other mainstream sports. It's easy for players entering the NBA or NFL to not violate the part about a student-athlete "considering returning to an NCAA school" because they have to declare for the draft before the draft takes place.
The MLB draft is, again, totally different. Players don't declare. They are eligible to be drafted based upon age and school standing. In Wetzler's case, he was eligible to be drafted because he was finishing his junior year in college. To reiterate: Wetzler never declared for the draft or said he was "testing the waters" of MLB. That's not how it works at all. He was simply drafted and took the path taken by every collegiate junior who is drafted.
From there, if players aren't allowed to consult with agents while negotiating and/or deciding whether or not to stay in school, MLB teams can take serious advantage of them. That's what agents are for: The legal wording in the contracts.
Given how baseball's system is different than other sports, it seems the rules should be tweaked a bit here, no? Oregon State officials believe as much:
OSU: "Having seen these amateurism rules in action, OSU believes NCAA should take a serious look...toward revising rules on amateur status"— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 22, 2014
Of course, now that word has gotten out that the Phillies turned in Wetzler, they potentially have a very serious problem themselves. Collegiate juniors are generally among the most attractive draft candidates because they've had three years of seasoning high school players haven't had while also still remaining a year younger than the seniors. But any college junior now selected by the Phillies has reason to be wary. Consult with an agent and don't sign, and the Phillies might try to get you in trouble prior to your senior year. Consult with an agent with the intention of signing and lose all leverage. Don't consult with an agent and the Phillies might completely low-ball you or screw you over with some legal jargon in the contract.
Basically, from where I sit, it's hard to imagine being a highly-touted collegiate junior and seeing upside in being drafted by the Phillies as opposed to 29 other teams who haven't turned in a kid and cost him 20 percent of his senior year.