Agent Casey Close is not happy. He’s so unhappy, in fact, that he has gone to Major League Baseball, telling the league that the Houston Astros are using what the team has unofficially called a medical concern to get the number one overall pick, Brady Aiken, with whom Close works with, to accept a lower bonus, which would clear up space for the team to sign two later picks.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports had an in-depth look at the accusations that published early Tuesday.
“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,” said Close, who serves as a family advisor to Aiken.
The issue, according to the Astros, is an “abnormality” with Aiken’s left elbow ligament.
Aiken’s camp, however, insists the young southpaw is healthy and the Astros are only looking to save money to use on other draft picks.
Should the team not sign Aiken, an array of options are at his disposal, according to Rosenthal, including accepting a college scholarship, re-entering the draft at a later date, file grievances through the player’s union or even pursue litigation against the team.
Two other players’ signings with Houston seem to be contingent on the Astros working out a lower-end deal with Aiken, at least if the team wants to avoid penalties for overspending. Mainly at play here is fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, who is also advised by Close.
After reportedly agreeing with the Astros, Nix was then informed that the team had to back out of the deal, rescinding its offer, according to Rosenthal.
It is standard industry protocol for players to agree to contract terms, then take physicals as the final step in finalizing a contract. But the Astros, after reaching agreement with Nix, notified his family that the offer would be rescinded because the team first needed to complete Aiken’s deal, Close said.
Major League Baseball said in a statement that Houston has not violated any rules to their knowledge, but head of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, is adamant that Nix – at the very least – should see his agreement with the organization honored.
“We believe that it is a clear violation of the rules being attempted solely to avoid penalty,” Clark said. “The Astros made a deal with Jacob Nix and should honor that agreement.”
As noted, failing to sign Aiken could have serious consequences for the Astros, who reportedly made a $3.16 million offer to the left-hander, down from the initial $6.5 million offer. Why $3.16 million? According to Rosenthal, it’s because that is “the minimum amount required to ensure that they would receive the second overall pick of the 2015 draft as compensation if they failed to sign Aiken.”
If Houston cannot agree to a deal with Aiken, the team will lose his assigned bonus value – $7,922,100. Should the team then sign Nix, they would exceed their allowance for the first ten rounds of the draft, meaning they will forfeit a minimum of one future draft pick.
Adding Aiken is a major step for an organization still in the throes of a top-to-bottom rebuilding effort. The organization must not only do its best to sign the southpaw, but also avoid damaging its image given the need it will have in coming years to acquire more young talent through the draft.