SBJ/June 1 - 7, 1998/No Topic Name

Drew won't test system again, but he won't be patsy

J.D. Drew will figure prominently yet again when baseball's annual draft gets under way on Tuesday.

Drew's path — kissing off offers from the Phillies and signing with the Northern League in an attempt to gain free agency — may be tempting to players who'd like to cash in, the way previous free agents did who were able to dodge the draft. But several of the game's premier agents, including Scott Boras, aren't so sure that players in this year's draft will take that route, especially given Drew's unsuccessful bid to escape the system through arbitration.

"It takes a very special player, and a very special situation," said Boras, who likely will represent at least five players in this year's first round. "I'd never recommend it to a high school player. As for college players, you've got to believe you're in line with a player of Travis Lee's caliber, you've got to believe there's something wrong with the system, and you've got to be willing to take a risk. I don't know that there's a player who fits that scenario in this group."

Baseball arbitrator Dana Eischen ruled May 19 that while Drew had a legitimate grievance against Major League Baseball — which changed its rules to thwart his attempt to gain free agency by playing in the unaffiliated Northern League — he was not a member of the players union and thus not eligible for arbitration.

Jeff Moorad, who represents two of the top collegians in the draft, third baseman Pat Burrell of the University of Miami and left-hander Ryan Mills of Arizona State, said he'd be hesitant to recommend that a client follow in Drew's footsteps, but he wouldn't rule it out before seeing how the draft played out.

"It needs to be a player who will step outside the system and challenge the process in a way that has the potential to scar him to the point that it's not necessarily in his own best interest," said Moorad. "[The late St. Louis Cardinals center fielder] Curt Flood comes to mind. It's an unpredictable, treacherous course."

As for Drew's next home, you can scratch the Phillies, who selected him with the second pick last year and hold the first pick this year. They can't draft him without his consent, and they're not likely to get Drew to sign off on a second go-around of negotiations.

Oakland selects second, and there are some who believe that, because Drew can't afford to sit out for a second year, the A's will take him and squeeze him into a contract he doesn't want.

Boras is assuring clubs they'd be making a mistake by doing so, because he'll be seeking either free agency, damages or both for Drew if they don't get a deal that they consider equitable.

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