In the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected former University of Kentucky pitcher, James Paxton, in the Supplemental First Round. Paxton and the Blue Jays did not come to terms on an agreement prior to the signing deadline, and Paxton decided that he would return to school for his senior season. But then, The Globe and Mail reported that Blue Jays president, Paul Beeston, might have had direct contact with Paxton’s advisor, Scott Boras, in negotiating the terms of Paxton’s possible deal with the team. If true, it would turn Boras from an advisor into an agent, and Paxton would no longer retain his student-athlete eligibility (he would not be able to play his senior season at UK).
The NCAA became interested in the matter. A University of Kentucky employee basically told Paxton that he would have to sit out from playing and would lose his financial aid if he refused to meet with NCAA investigators for a violation that the NCAA would not disclose. Paxton held his ground, and ended up playing a year of Independent Baseball prior to being selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Paxton still has not signed with the Mariners, but he is unaffected by the August 16 deadline, and has until a week prior to next year’s draft to come to an agreement with the club.
The main reason that I am discussing this matter is because of something I recently read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and scouting director Greg Smith were among the Pirates representatives expected to sit down with agents Randy and Alan Hendricks in Houston to work toward a deal to sign second-overall selection Jameson Taillon. The Hendricks brothers are based in Houston, and Taillon comes from The Woodlands about 25 miles north.
Internet reports intimated that a deal was reached already, but the parties involved wouldn’t attempt to meet in private if such reports were based in fact.
Does it not sound as if the Post-Gazette is implying that the Hendricks brothers negotiated directly with the Pirates? How is this any less conclusive than what The Globe and Mail wrote about Boras and Beeston? The fact of the matter is that in this case, it has no consequence. Tallion signed for a $6.5 million bonus, so it does not matter whether the Hendricks brothers were considered advisors or agents – Tallion is skipping school for the time being and will never attempt to play college baseball.
But what if the Pirates had caught wind of the article? Might the club have used it against Tallion as leverage in their negotiation? That is probably a stretch, and way too competitive of a negotiation style to use against someone you want to be the future face of your franchise.
Another point to note is that just because a couple papers have reported about two distinct events does not mean that advisors talking to club personnel is a rarity. It is just rarely reported. My guess is that a majority, if not all advisors of players selected in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, had some sort of direct communication with the teams that selected their clients. The NCAA might want to think otherwise and continue to threaten its antiquated “no-agent” rule, but in the end, the players need competent assistance, and there are very few advisors who would deny that to them.