The Major League Baseball Players Association has reportedly filed a grievance against the Houston Astros, contending the team attempted to manipulate the signings of Brady Aiken and other 2014 draft picks.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal confirmed the news:
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 development stems from the Astros' failure to sign Aiken, the top overall pick in this year's draft, as well as pitchers Jacob Nix and Mac Marshall.
Teams are given a certain amount of money to spend on bonuses for picks before incurring penalties. Houston drew criticism when it lowered its original offer to Aiken from $6.5 million to $5 million after it was revealed there was an oddity—not injury—with the left-hander's ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.
Some have contended, as MLB.com's Jim Callis explained, that move was an attempt to also sign Nix and Marshall.
Instead talks with agent Casey Close (who represented both Aiken and Nix) broke down, the Astros reportedly didn't honor a $1.5 million agreement with Nix, which was built around the potential savings from Aiken's deal, and all three players went unsigned.
It was a mess.
General manager Jeff Luhnow, via the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich, however, has maintained the organization did nothing wrong:
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
Still, the MLBPA clearly feels like there was wrongdoing here, and it will be interesting to see what happens next.
Will the fact that Aiken ultimately declined the Astros' $5 million offer work against him? Did the Astros actually break a rule—does manipulation mean violation?—that gives the union ground to stand on, or did they just act in what many see as an ethically irresponsible way?
Moreover, if the union wins its grievance, what happens next? As it currently stands, Aiken and Nix are deciding whether to play at UCLA or go to junior college and re-enter the draft next year, and this could potentially have a major effect on those plans.
Either way, Callis explains that this ordeal may lead to changes in how draft physicals are conducted:
Multiple baseball officials believe that the circumstances surrounding Aiken will lead to eventual changes in the way Draft physicals are conducted. The current CBA, which came into play in December 2011, overhauled the Draft rules and called for a pre-Draft medical combine, though MLB and the MLBPA have been unable to work out the logistics.
This is a wild situation. While we won't know if the Astros were truly in the wrong until a ruling is made, it's clear that changes need to be made to better establish the rules.
Hopefully, this serves as a catalyst for that.