Tagged: Scott Boras

The Batman Conundrum

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Matt Harvey has made a convincing case that he’s recovered nicely from his Tommy John performance, and while the ride has been admittedly bumpy in some respects, the general consensus is that he is mostly up to speed, and barring a complete resurgence from Jay Bruce and a complete meltdown by Harvey, it seems the NL Comeback Player of the Year award is his to lose.

That being said, as he’s pitched and as the season continues its downward turn, the infamous innings limit is looming.

You know that limit, the one that forced Stephen Strasburg to sit for the rest of the 2012 season and essentially killed any chance the Nationals would advance past the NLDS. The same innings limit that was instituted as a result of Dusty Bakers complete overworking of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood which led to their once meteoric careers taking a big downward trajectory. Yeah, that limit.

That limit is all well and good, and would be okay under normal circumstances,  but these are not normal circumstances, as the Mets find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title for the first time in seven years, and have a very good chance of breaking their 9 year old playoff drought.

Until recently, there was a consensus as to what Harvey’s limit was, and that limit was 180. No going over it, not even for the playoffs, so the Mets would either have to use him to get to the playoffs or, at most two starts in the playoffs, based on his current number, 166.1 innings. This limit was designated by team doctors and Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, both of whom have preached that it is best for him in his future.

However, the Mets have said and insisted, Sandy Alderson in particular, that Harvey is under a soft innings cap, which is 200 innings, with the potential to go over that number based on certain circumstances, like quick innings.

The dispute over 20 additional innings has both Alderson and Boras at odds, with Boras all but accusing the team of potentially damaging their star pitcher’s health and potential future earnings by potentially overextending him, while Alderson is all but accusing Boras and his doctors of overreaching their bounds and being too conservative.

The two aspects left in the middle are the fans, who want to see the team play in October with Harvey throwing for them, and Harvey, who wants to pitch in October, although he hasn’t commented on his innings limit.

The problem here is that Harvey is in between a rock and a hard place. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, he has quickly ascended to being the face of the franchise, and seems very primed to take over that position, barring he doesn’t leave in free agency, which many Mets fans have believed considering his admission to being a Yankees fan. Harvey is running a tightrope. He could choose to listen to his doctors and his agent and not be available for the playoffs, or he could choose to fight through and play for his team, and his fans.

The consequences for each option are as follows: If he chooses to shut himself down for the sake of future seasons and money, he comes off as selfish and the Mets lose a key arm in the playoff race, meaning they would have to rely on someone like Bartolo Colon or Logan Verrett to compensate for Harvey’s loss. The sports pages will have a field day, and the fanbase will never forgive him, and given how badly they have treated him because of his Yankee roots, it would seem all too certain that he would bolt for the greener pastures of New York.

The more likely route, the one where he does end up pitching for the Mets in both the regular season and October, assuming the Mets get that far, leads to him pushing his arm too far and risking reinjuring it. It also means that he gets on both Boras and his doctor’s bad side, unless Boras files a grievance to the MLBPA for the Mets mismanaging Harvey. Still Harvey keeps his reputation of being a guy who wants to win, and the fanbase could give him a break for once, instead of constantly deriding him and telling him to be a Yankee.

Again, this choice belongs to Harvey, and if he’s smart, he will try and figure out the best way to help himself and the team. Even though he doesn’t like it, he will miss a start so the Mets can extend him for the race.

All that leaves is what to do afterwards.

The thing that Harvey needs to know is that Scott Boras works for him, not the other way around. And considering Boras’ history with other Mets players, to be specific, Carlos Beltran, Harvey could talk to Beltran about how Boras in some ways comes off as condescending and abusive to his clients all in the name of getting them lucrative contracts. To say that Harvey doesn’t deserve a megadeal when he finishes his rookie contract would insinuate that he isn’t a dominant pitcher, and honestly, that is a lie. Having seen Harvey pitch twice this season, I’ve come to respect Harvey more as a gamer, a guy who will fight tooth and nail for the win, even if it means that he doesn’t get the win himself. Plus, he is an All-Star already, and is bound to add more hardware to his awards closet.

Boras doesn’t dictate what his clients do, rather he works for them, and that’s the problem with him. The fact that he has forced teams to pay big for his clients, both in the draft and during free agency almost suggests that the players work for him, and not the other way around, which is wrong. Harvey is not beholden to his agent, meaning that he can do as he wishes, so long as it doesn’t go against the wishes of his employer, which as of now is the Mets. Boras has no right to tell the Mets what they should do with Harvey, nor does he have the right to tell any team what to do with their star player. Unless a team deliberately mistreats their player, he has no cause to complain. The Mets are acting both in the best interests of themselves and of Harvey, and it’s not like they are forcing him into a Mark Prior type situation. If Harvey feels that he can’t do it, all he needs to do is tell management. Knowing Harvey will fight hard to pitch in October, you can expect him to show that he wants it more than anything else.

All in all, Harvey knows that it all comes down to what he wants, and if it’s within reason for the Mets. Mets fans should prepare for Harvey to be a key component in the team’s playoff race.

Requiem for Kris Bryant

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To say that Chicago Cubs super prospect Kris Bryant’s spring was impressive is perhaps the understatement of the year. A prospect who batted well above .400 and led all of Major League Baseball in home runs is, in most cases, justification for a spot on the Major League roster.

Note, however, that I said, in most cases, as despite his almost video game like spring, Bryant will be spending the beginning of the season “seasoning” in Iowa. Cubs president Theo Epstein had all but publicly said that Bryant would start the season in the minors. Of course, the reaction to this move is less than satisfactory. Cubs fans are understandably upset, Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras is very angry, and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association has issued a statement on Bryant’s demotion, calling it a “bad day for baseball”. Even I am upset that Kris Bryant will have to waste two weeks in AAA instead of being an immediate contributor.

Having already discussed the reason why top prospects often spend extra time in the minors, it’s clear why Bryant is going down instead of staying up. For those who still need help connecting the dots, it’s more feasible for the Cubs to have a full six years of Kris Bryant production on the cheap, rather than five years for the sake of an early promotion. And that’s understandable. The Cubs are going to be stacked with cheap high ceiling talent until the early 2020s. It’s clear that should all their young bats pan out, they will have to either dole out big contracts early in these players’ careers, pay them in free agency, or risk losing them to big spending franchises like the Yankees and Dodgers.

However, the problem for fans isn’t just delaying Bryant’s debut, it’s also the way they explained why they were going to do it.

Throughout Spring Training, Theo Epstein never admitted why Bryant was going to stay down. Sure, he offered the same excuse, that Bryant “needed more seasoning”, and offered up Dustin Pedroia and his Rookie of the Year 2007 season as a reason for why Bryant deserved to stay down, but these excuses had no foundation to them.

Trying to justify demoting a prospect like Bryant is hard to do, especially for a fanbase that has had very little to cheer about lately, but I believe that Epstein had the opportunity to diffuse some anger by explaining his true motivations.

Had he just said “I am demoting Bryant because it makes sense to keep him an extra year when he will be in his prime rather than lose that year for two weeks of production”, I’m certain that fans would have understood. Would they have accepted the justification? In all likelihood, they wouldn’t take it well, but they would still take it. Honesty, while painful, is a better policy than presenting the same excuse and expecting the fans to take it, no questions asked.

Sure, Scott Boras and the MLBPA would have had justification to file a grievance against Epstein and the Cubs, but it would have allowed for the elephant in the room to be addressed. It’s no secret that the arbitration clock is considered a nuisance, a hinderance which prevents top prospects who are major league ready from contributing when they are ready, but rules are meant to be broken. Had Curt Flood not opted to report to the Phillies after he had been traded from the Cardinals, Major League Baseball likely would still be operating under the reserve clause. Had Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Josh Bell not received a $5 Million signing bonus to keep him from committing to the University of Texas, then the draft slotting system would not have been implemented. Had the Rangers not paid an obscenely expensive posting fee to pry Yu Darvish away from Japan, then the slotting system wouldn’t have been revised.

We could spend the remainder of this post playing the “what if” game, but it’s clear, Kris Bryant is going to spend an extra two weeks in Iowa, and when the Cubs promote him, his clock will tick. He’ll be a free agent by 2021, barring him signing a contract extension. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLBPA and Major League Baseball decide to discuss ways to eliminate the arbitration clock, with an idea in place by next offseason.

Until then, patience, Cubs fans. Two weeks doesn’t determine a whole season, and when Bryant comes, you’ll probably never have to see him go to the minors again.

The Case of Ben Wetzler vs. the Phillies and the NCAA

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The NCAA is often criticized for its Draconian measures against student athletes who try and prepare for a professional career, as well as its nonstandard punishments for apparent rules violations, see University of Oklahoma’s “Pastagate” as an example of such ludicrousness. But the case of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, who was turned in by the Philadelphia Phillies for hiring a financial advisor and ultimately electing to return for his senior season at Oregon State University, this has to be one of the most absurd, if not the most absurd case of the NCAA going on its “As you go” rules policy.

For those who are uninformed, Wetzler was a 5th round draft choice of the Phillies. Had he signed with them, he would have earned a $400,000 signing bonus. Obviously, Wetzler felt that he wasn’t ready, and wanted to be sure he was making the right choice, so he hired a financial advisor. When it became apparent that it would be better if he stayed in school, he did. In a plot that draws loose similarities to the 2006 Academy Award winning foreign film Das Leben Der Anderen, the Phillies, likely upset at having been jilted by the young starter, reported that Wetzler had hired an agent for the negotiations. The NCAA came down on this, and suspended Wetzler “indefinitely”. Incidentally, Wetzler wasn’t the only player that the Phillies tried to blackball, as Washington State outfielder and first baseman Jason Monda  was also reported, yet was cleared by the Cougars and the NCAA to play this year.

What’s even more remarkable is that this is the first time that this has happened. Never before has a player been reported by a major league team. Granted, a player has been suspended and his eligibility has been revoked before, see Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and James Paxton, but the teams that drafted them, the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays never did report them.

This is undoubtedly low on Philadelphia’s part. A player should not be stabbed behind the back like that just because they chose to return to school, money or otherwise. It unfairly disqualifies a player, and ruins a team’s reputation. Agents who represent collegiate talent are now likely going to advise their clients to avoid signing with Philadelphia because of this. Similarly, the NCAA should be ashamed. There have been far worse examples of the same thing happening. Mark Appel for instance.

Appel, who had been chosen by the Pirates with the 8th overall pick out of Stanford, elected to return to school under the advice of Scott Boras, who wanted first overall pick money for his client. Incidentally, Appel also wanted to return because he wasn’t a first overall pick. A year later, Appel, who wasn’t suspended by the NCAA because the Pirates didn’t rat him out despite his being a more blatant transgression of the rules, was drafted first overall by the Astros. It amazes me that something this blatant wasn’t addressed, yet a fifth round pick deciding to return to school was. It’s hypocritical.

It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles. in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a team was banned from recruiting certain players. The Baltimore Orioles cannot attend Korea Baseball Association* sponsored baseball camps in South Korea after signing then-high-school pitcher Kim-Seong Min before he graduated.

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*Recently signed Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is a product of the Korea Baseball Organization, which governs the professional leagues in South Korea. The Orioles are allowed to attend KBO games and sign KBO players.

Could Wetzler have a legitimate case against the NCAA and the Phillies by extension? It’s possible. This is the first time that such an incident has happened, and usually the ruling in the first case will set a precent. If the Appel case can be cited, it is likely that Wetzler could have his suspension overturned, thus allowing him the opportunity to pitch his senior season.  For now, we will wait and see what happens.

 

If Irony Were Made Of Strawberries…

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…Then I’d be eating a lot of smoothies right now. Yesterday’s post about first round picks who had yet to sign made casual mention that Kris Bryant would probably by one of the last first rounders to sign. Well, surprise surprise, Bryant has just signed a deal, and not just any deal. Thanks to Scott Boras, Bryant got the $6.7 Million he asked for. Bryant will likely report to either the Short-A Boise Hawks or the Low-A Kane County Cougars where he will begin his professional career. Bryant became the 30th of the 33 first rounders to sign, leaving only Miami’s Colin Moran, Toronto’s Phil Bickford, and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge as the remaining unsigned picks.

Bryant, who led the NCAA in home runs this year with 31, helped bring the University of San Diego into the Fullerton Regional of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to eventual champion UCLA.

Bryant projects as a decent hitter with excellent power, Defensively, Bryant’s arm is major league ready. Expect Bryant to make the major leagues by early 2015, with a possibly fall cameo next year.

2013 MLB Draft: Looking at the top returning picks

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Prospects2Pros has made it very clear that one of the highlights of this blog will be the MLB draft. But with the draft a couple months away, and with college baseball heading into the midpoint of the season, I have decided to take the first of many looks at the draft. To start, I will focus on three players who were already drafted in the first round, but elected to stay in school. 

Today, I began by following a bunch of prospects and draft experts on twitter, among them, former 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon, and the official MLB draft twitter feed, as well as MLB.com prospect writer Jonathan Mayo, whose rankings serve as the basis of my top 100 prospect mini-profiles. Mayo had sent out a tweet saying that he would be answering questions about the draft, so being the nut that I am, I felt compelled to ask the following question:

Mayo responded rather quickly with this:

Now, unless you are a draft nut like I am, you will have no idea who those two players are, so I will provide some exposition. 

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Karsten Whitson and Dylan Covey are two former first round picks. Whitson was a highly touted arm out of high school, who was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the San Diego Padres, while Covey also was a highly touted arm who was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers who was drafted in the same year. 

Whitson elected to go to the University of Florida, where he spent the next two years contributing to the continued success of the program, while also contributing to the team’s 2011 College World Series Final appearance, the first one to be held in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, which had replaced the old Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Whitson unfortunately missed the entire 2013 season with shoulder surgery, and, as Mayo stated, is unlikely to be another first round pick. 

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Covey, on the other hand, decided to go to college because of a recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. He then spent the next three years pitching for the University of San Diego Toreros, the same school that former first rounder Brian Matusz attended. As Mayo said, it is uncertain if Covey will be a first round pick. 

Covey and Whitson would cross paths once again, this time pitching in the Cape Cod League for the Orleans Firebirds in 2012, and they would contribute to the team that made the semifinals of the Cape Cod League playoffs. 

The other player who is a former first round draft choice is Stanford ace Mark Appel. Appel famously turned down a lucrative offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates under the advice of his agent, Scott Boras. He is projected to be the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. You may also recall that Appel’s actions caused the Mets to lose out of Michael Bourn, allowing him to sign with the Cleveland Indians 

My general feelings about these three players are that Appel will be taken with the first pick in the draft, and Covey may go as high as the sandwich round, while Whitson decides to wait another year and attempt to challenge NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon and Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede for the top pick in the draft. We will see how things go until then.