Signing Deadline Didn't End Draft Intrigue

Alvarez goes on restricted list as union files grievance

The Pirates thought they had Pedro Alvarez signed and sealed, but he's yet to be delivered by agent Scott Boras. And the saga of his signing apparently will drag into the fall.

Major League Baseball placed Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Vanderbilt, on the restricted list Wednesday, at Pittsburgh's request. At the same time, the Major League Baseball Players Association has filed a grievance challenging what it calls MLB's "unilateral decision" to extend the signing deadline to allow several players to get deals done.

Reached by telephone, Boras declined comment Wednesday afternoon, referring the matter to the union because "this is a union grievance . . . about a violation of major league rules."

Several sources have confirmed to Baseball America that MLB extended the signing deadline by as much as 45 minutes to allow Eric Hosmer (another Boras client) to reach a deal with the Royals that included a $6 million bonus.

Speculation in baseball circles was that Alvarez—who reached an agreement with the Pirates for a $6 million bonus—and Missouri righthander Aaron Crow—who could not come to terms with the Nationals—received similar extensions, though Baseball America has not been able to confirm that.

Union general counsel Michael Weiner said in a statement, "The Players Association learned from several sources that the commissioner's office had extended the deadline for negotiating and reporting signings with drafted players."

The union's argument is that the signing deadline was collectively bargained in the last labor agreement and can't be changed by one side without consulting the other. It filed a grievance and the matter could be heard by an arbitrator as soon as Sept. 10, but Weiner's statement does not specify what relief the union will seek.

"The grievance was not filed on behalf of any particular player," Weiner said. "It is the union's obligation, on behalf of all players, to defend the integrity of its collectively bargained agreements."

Pirates president Frank Coonelly, who worked in the commissioner's office and was heavily involved in the draft before joining the Pirates last fall, issued a lengthy statement that addressed the Alvarez situation. The two parties were thought to have agreed to a $6 million bonus late on Aug. 15. Various reports have indicated the agreement was reached at 11:59 p.m., a minute before the deadline, though there have been rumors that the deal was consummated after the deadline.

Pirates officials indicated frustration earlier this week that Alvarez had not yet reported for his physical or for an introductory press conference, and now the stalemate has reached new territory. In his statement, Coonelly singles out Boras for blame, saying he's "disappointed" but crediting Alvarez with making the Aug. 15 deal happen in the first place.

Weiner's statement said Coonelly's statement "is inaccurate in a number of respects" but said he would not respond specifically through the press to its assertions.

The full text of both statements follows:

Statement from Frank Coonelly, Pirates president, on the Office of the Commissioner's placement of Pedro Alvarez on the restricted list:

"At the Pirates' request, the Office of the Commissioner today placed Pedro Alvarez on Major League Baseball's Restricted List. The Pirates were forced to request that Pedro be placed on the Restricted List because we were informed by his agent, Scott Boras, that Pedro will not sign the contract to which he agreed on Aug. 15. Boras further informed us that Pedro will not report to the club unless we renegotiate his contract and agree to pay him more than the $6 million signing bonus to which he agreed.
"The major league rules provide that a player who refuses to sign a Uniform Player Contract to which he has agreed and report to the signing club shall, upon a report of the signing club, be placed on the restricted list until he signs a contract reflecting the terms to which he has agreed. Such a player may not sign a contract with or play for any other club. While demanding that we renegotiate his contract and pay Pedro more than the $6 million signing bonus to which Pedro agreed, Mr. Boras has contended that the contract we reached with Pedro was consummated after the Aug. 15 deadline. This claim was not raised on the evening of the 15th when we informed Mr. Boras that Major League Baseball had confirmed that the contract was submitted in a timely fashion. Mr. Boras asserted this claim several days later, after all of the draft signings had become publicized.
"The Pirates are confident that the contract reached with Pedro Alvarez was agreed to and submitted to Major League Baseball in a timely fashion and properly accepted by Major League Baseball. In fact, the contract between the Kansas City Royals and Eric Hosmer, another Boras client, was submitted to the Office of the Commissioner after our contract with Pedro was submitted. Mr. Boras is apparently satisfied with the $6 million bonus that he secured for Mr. Hosmer and has not challenged the validity of that contract. Mr. Boras has been informed that if he pursues a claim that our contract with Pedro was not timely, he puts Eric Hosmer's contract with Kansas City in jeopardy.
"The Pirates made several attempts to commence negotiations immediately following the draft and were willing and ready to agree to pay Pedro a $6 million signing bonus from the very outset. Predictably, however, Mr. Boras refused to engage in any negotiations at all until shortly before the Aug. 15 deadline, and even then an agreement was reached only after Pedro took control of the negotiations.
"Regrettably, we are not surprised that Mr. Boras would attempt to raise a meritless legal claim in an effort to compel us to renegotiate Pedro's contract to one more to his liking. We are, however, disappointed that Pedro would allow his agent to pursue this claim on his behalf. Pedro showed tremendous fortitude and independent thinking when he agreed to his contract on August 15.
"The Office of the Commissioner has assured us that we have a valid contract with Pedro and that it will vigorously defend any claim to the contrary. Despite our disappointment, we continue to believe in Pedro Alvarez the person and the baseball player and remain excited to add Pedro to our system. We will sit down with Pedro and his family as soon as Mr. Boras' claim is rejected to chart a new and much more productive start to Pedro's career with the Pittsburgh Pirates."   

The following statement was issued today by Major League Baseball Players Association General Counsel, Michael Weiner:

"The Major League Baseball Players Association today filed a grievance challenging the unilateral decision of the commissioner's office to extend the August 15, 2008 signing deadline for drafted players. The association and the commissioner's office have agreed to expedited processing of this Grievance, with the intention of bringing the matter to hearing as early as September 10, 2008.

"In the 2006 round of collective bargaining, the Players Association agreed to establish an August 15 signing deadline for drafted players with remaining collegiate eligibility.  The firm deadline was a club bargaining demand, and agreement on it was part of a broader set of compromises by the parties related to the reserve system and the draft.

"Within hours after this year's August 15 midnight deadline passed, the Players Association learned from several sources that the Commissioner's Office had extended the deadline for negotiating and reporting signings with drafted players.  This was done without notice to or consultation with the Players Association, despite a firm deadline having been established through collective bargaining.   The Players Association, after discussions with the Commissioner's Office, players, agents and other parties, viewed it necessary to file a grievance challenging this plainly unlawful unilateral act by the Commissioner's Office. The grievance was not filed on behalf of any particular player. It is the union's obligation, on behalf of all players, to defend the integrity of its collectively bargained agreements and to ensure that those agreements are respected and honored by the clubs.

"I have read the statement issued by Frank Coonelly, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, regarding Pedro Alvarez. Frank's statement also refers to the contract between Eric Hosmer and the Kansas City Royals. The association, after further investigation and the processing of the grievance, will determine what relief it will seek from the arbitration panel, including whether it will seek relief related to agreements accepted by the Commissioner's Office after the collectively bargained signing deadline.  

"Moreover, based on information gathered to date by the association, Frank's statement is inaccurate in a number of respects. While the association will not respond specifically through the press, we are confident that, at hearing, the panel will agree that the Commissioner's Office acted improperly when it unilaterally changed the terms of the deal it struck with the association in 2006."