Hochevar Signs Indy Deal
Righthander scheduled to make six starts before June draft
Righthander Luke Hochevar, a supplemental first-round pick of the Dodgers last year out of Tennessee, still hasn't signed with Los Angeles but has reached an agreement on his first professional contract.
Hochevar has a deal to pitch for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association, which would give him the opportunity to make six starts in front of scouts before this June's draft. Hochevar remains eligible to sign with the Dodgers until a week before this year's draft, but after negotiations took an ugly turn last fall that seems unlikely.
The detour to independent ball is a common path for holdout clients of agent Scott Boras, most recently executed by Stephen Drew. Drew was a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2004 but did not sign until just before the 2005 draft. In the meantime, he signed with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League and hit .427 in 82 at-bats.
Fort Worth director of player development Barry Moss said a representative from Scott Boras Corp. called several weeks ago to see if the Cats would be interested in adding Hochevar to their staff. The team had Matt Harrington, another Boras client and noted draft holdout, on its roster for the past two seasons. Given the chance to pick up a first-round pitching prospect for a month, Moss had a simple response: "My question was, what do we need to do to make it happen, and what do you need from us?"
Hochevar didn't ask for much in the way of special accommodations. He'll make a little more than the rookie minimum of $750 a month, and he'll travel with the team throughout the first month of the season.
The only adjustments the Cats made were to set the dates of his starts in advance, allowing scouts to plan their schedules if they want to see him pitch. According to Moss, Hochevar has already worked up to 100 pitches in private workouts, and he'll have normal pitch limits when the season begins.
"He looks real good," said Moss, who saw Hochevar throw recently at the UC Irvine campus near Boras' offices. "He's throwing in the 90s effortlessly, and doing all these different drills he has."
Hochevar is scheduled to make his first appearance for the Cats on May 8 in an exhibition game,. He'll be a part of the regular rotation through June 4, when he's scheduled to make his last start before the upcoming draft.
"We present a structure and a competitive level where it fits. I think Luke Hochevar will be really happy in that situation," Moss said. "We're trying to make it work for the (major league) organizations too. We're not trying to make a maverick move against the system. Obviously this works for the Cats, but we're also trying to help the organizations."
The choice makes sense for Boras Corp. and Hochevar because of the team's experience with Boras through Harrington, the warm weather in Texas, and the easy accessibility for scouts and crosscheckers because of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Last year, Drew and another Boras client from the 2004 draft, righthander Jered Weaver, both signed with the Riversharks. Both later agreed to deals with the teams that drafted them in 2004 just before the deadline to re-enter the draft. Weaver worked out with Camden but never pitched in a game.
Such a scenario seems less likely with Hochevar. He was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in last year's draft but fell to the 40th pick because of signability questions. Negotiations moved slowly, as expected, but Hochevar then appeared to switch his representation to agent Matt Sosnick and agree to a $2.98 million bonus with the Dodgers in September. Hochevar then spoke to Boras and changed his mind, rejoining the Boras fold and declining to sign. Several days of charges and counter-charges ensued, but the end result has been that the Dodgers and Hochevar have not come close to reaching an agreement since.