At the 5:00 pm eastern deadline today, all teams had to have agreed with their draft picks from this year's June Draft. The Houston Astros and number one overall pick Brady Aiken, a left-hander from San Diego, California, had not come to terms coming into the final day of negotiations.
When the clock stuck five, no word was heard out of Houston. About 10 minutes later, the news was broken to the world, courtesy of MLB.com's Jim Callis. The Astros could not agree with top pick Brady Aiken, along with 5th rounder Jacob Nix and 21st rounder Mac Marshall (Marshall was expected to return to LSU anyway.). This draft was supposed to be crucial to the Astros future; they responded by whiffing at three top talents that could help boost their farm system even further.
Aiken, especially, is a presumably big miss by the Astros. The number one overall pick and Houston got into, what appeared to be, livid negotiations over his new deal. Houston claimed that Aiken had problems with an elbow ligament in his throwing, while Aiken's camp, led by advisor Casey Close, believed that his arm was healthy. Houston offered Aiken a $5 million bonus, one that was $1.5 million smaller than the originally agreed to amount of $6 million.
"We tried to engage Casey Close three times today … there was no interest," Astros general manager told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich went on to report that the Astros final offer to Aiken was $5 million, the same discount that the team initially wanted after they saw that he had damage in his elbow. It appears that negotiations did not go well between the sides.
In spite of not being able to sign Aiken, the Astros will receive the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Currently, the team is in position to finish with the second-worst record in the majors, which means that the Astros could have picks number two and three next year.
What does this mean for future negotiations between the Astros and draftees?
The Astros pressured their top pick in to perhaps signing for less money. It is hard to know whether Aiken's elbow really is messed up or not, but it is hard to argue against Close, who had Aiken evaluated by many top physicians familiar with the situation. However, I did write about how to fix the issues with the MLB Draft. Getting players adequate representation was one of the improvements I made.
With an actual agent, it becomes harder for a player to be pressured into signing for less. Sure, Close had a lot of involvement with Aiken's deal, but it was ultimately Aiken himself that did the negotiations. Aiken-- an 18-year-old baseball player with absolutely no background in sports management--went up against a large cooperation in the Houston Astros. How is that fair? It is not.
Aiken will head to UCLA this fall, where he will have to play through his junior season before he can go through the drafting process once again. And wherever the chips fall in three years, it is hard to see Aiken getting a better deal than the $5 million the Astros did end up offering.