Ben Wetzler. Image Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Much has been said and written about the situation with Ben Wetzler and the Phillies. Most pundits predict that this will hurt the Phillies ability to scout and draft high school players. As reported by Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt, at least one agent isn’t happy about the Phillies’ actions at all:
"“As of today, the Phillies are out,” one agent who advises numerous high-profile prospects said Thursday. “If the Phillies call for an in-home visit, the Phillies are not getting into any more of our households. We’re going to shut down all communication with the Phillies—no questionnaires returned, no communication with the Phillies’ scouts about when players are going to pitch and no communication about signability information. You can’t have this adversarial relationship between teams and players, and then have them be able to hold that over the players: ‘You’d better take this deal or I’m going to turn you in.’”"
I do think it may hurt them somewhat, at least in the short term. But in the long term, the end result may be minimal, and there are theories as to how the Phillies might even benefit from the situation. Why? It comes down to four words:
Money talks, bullcrap walks.
It sounds great for agents to talk a big game about looking after their players. They can take the moral high ground on this issue and sound like they’ve got the best interests of the players at heart.
But here’s the thing: The Phillies – like all major league teams – are the only ones who can pay these guys. And once money is involved in the equation, people stop finding the moral high ground to be quite so appealing.
If the Phillies are interested in a high school player and draft him, that player doesn’t have many options. Yes, he could go to college, and that might work out reasonably well for him. But chances are, if a high school player is drafted, it is because he has made it clear that he wants to get his professional career started as quickly as possible.
Going to college is risky for a baseball star. Aside from the obvious financial benefit to signing with a major league team, there are other dangers as well. College coaches might say that they’re looking after their players, but the majority are more interested in the success of their team and program. There are plenty of stories about college players having their scholarships revoked when they didn’t meet expectations. And there are also many cases where college pitchers suffered arm injuries due to overuse.
On the other hand, once a player is drafted and signed by a major league club, the team has already made a financial investment in them and will do whatever they can to make sure that investment pays off.
In the end, while it’s easy to take the moral high ground at first, it’s very rare that people won’t move a little lower if enough money is thrown their way.