Updates from Thursday, July 24
The saga between Brady Aiken and the Astros isn't over yet according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal:
Can confirm union filed grievance against #Astros, as 1st reported by Murray Chass. Argues team tried to manipulate signings of Aiken, etc.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 24, 2014
The Houston Astros and left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, need each other more than ever. Unfortunately, as has been the case so many times this year, injuries left Aiken's future in doubt.
Things ended up turning for the worse, as the Astros have reportedly failed to sign Aiken after the pitcher was diagnosed with a ligament issue in his throwing arm. The team will now have the second overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Jim Callis of MLB.com first reported that the top pick was unable to come to a deal, along with fifth-round pick Jacob Nix:
This was later confirmed by ESPN's Keith Law:
Source also indicating Astros didn't sign Aiken or Nix.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) July 18, 2014
Callis notes that this is a relatively rare, but not unprecedented, situation:
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on July 7 that the Astros had rescinded their originally agreed-upon offer to Aiken of $6.5 million and were looking to sign him for around $5 million.
Because the injury was reported so late in the process, the Astros and Aiken had precious little time to renegotiate the terms before Friday's deadline.
There was apparently a late offer from the organization, but it was not enough for Aiken, according to John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com:
multiple sources saying Houston offered 5 million. If true, my impulse is that it is a huge gamble on Aiken's part to turn that down— johnsickels (@MinorLeagueBall) July 18, 2014
General manager Jeff Luhnow provided his thoughts on the matter, via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:
Luhnow: "We did nothing unethical, we did nothing disingenuous. We tried to sign good players at the appropriate values"— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) July 18, 2014
The Astros' inability to strike a deal with Aiken is a crippling blow to their draft class. It was a solid group overall, with a nice assortment of high-potential players like outfielder Derek Fisher and first baseman A.J. Reed. Nix might have had a chance to sign, but Bleacher Report's Will Carroll notes that this would have made it worse:
Had Astros signed Nix but not Aiken, would have forfeited next TWO first round picks.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) July 18, 2014
When you lose the first overall pick, it's a stain on the class that can't be erased. This situation seemed headed for an ugly ending, especially based on these quotes from Aiken's agent, Casey Close, to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com:
We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules.
A source told Kirk Kenney of U-T San Diego that Houston's front office is filled with "analytical people" who "see players as assets" and would rather put $6.5 million "in the draft to two assets than one."
On the other hand, ESPN's Buster Olney notes that the top prospect is worth much more:
Team officials guesstimated this week that if Brady Aiken was a free agent, he'd get something in the range of $30m-$40m. What a system.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 18, 2014
Even if the Astros allocated these funds elsewhere, it doesn't change the fact that they lost the consensus top player in the 2014 draft.
Aiken is a special talent who was garnering lofty praise before the draft. Law (subscription required) wrote in a pre-draft ranking that the left-hander's combination of size and raw stuff was basically a Clayton Kershaw starter kit.
From here, Aiken could make good on his college commitment, as Drellich reports, but "If he goes through with his commitment to UCLA, he would not be eligible for the draft for three years."
Aiken could also opt to go the junior college route to try to re-enter the draft in 2015. Either way, the road doesn't get easier for the southpaw.
Houston's farm system is still excellent, even with Carlos Correa out for the year, but it would have been nice to have another high-ceiling arm in that group.
That won't be the case, and it remains to be seen how this decision will impact the team and its fanbase moving forward.
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