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Is there anything in the CBA to prevent Mark Appel from signing a one-year deal with a Japanese League team and then trying to become a free agent?Brad Carper Warrensburg, Mo.Appel, the Stanford righthander expected to go No. 1 overall but who dropped to the Pirates at No. 8, certainly could sign with a Japanese team and try to become a free agent. Whether he'd actually hit the open market is the real question.When the Nationals took Stephen Strasburg with the top choice in 2009, he was hailed as the best pitching prospect—maybe the best prospect—in draft history. He ultimately signed a $15.1 million contract that represented the biggest draft deal ever. At the same time, it fell fall short of the contracts bestowed on top international free agents such as Jose Contreras ($32 million in 2002) and Daisuke Matsuzaka ($52 million in 2006).Seeking to gain leverage for his client, agent Scott Boras hinted that Strasburg might head to Japan for a year and then seek free agency. He would have had to find a Japanese team willing to make him a free agent after one season rather than the standard nine, and one that would take part in helping him circumvent the MLB draft.Even had Strasburg succeeded in doing so, MLB assured the Nationals that its interpretation of the draft rules would have made the pitcher re-enter the 2010 draft rather than granted him free agency. Had this story line played out, Strasburg certainly would have filed a grievance. Whether that would have made him a free agent remains to be seen.J.D. Drew successfully won a 1997 case after MLB unilaterally ruled players who signed with independent league teams had to re-enter the next year's draft. But Drew didn't become a free agent because the arbitrator decreed that the decision didn't apply to him because he wasn't a member of the MLB Players Association.If Appel tests the Japan route, MLB would rule that he'd have to re-enter the 2013 draft and the grievance process would have to play out. I still believe, as stated in last week's Ask BA, that his best move is to get his career started by signing for the $3.5 million to $4 million Pittsburgh will be able to pay him without incurring a draft-pick penalty under the new rules this year.
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