San Diego prep lefty Brady Aiken made history when the Houston Astros made him the first high school pitcher taken with the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft since 1991. It was a huge day for the 17-year-old who had become the consensus top player in the 2014 MLB Draft class. But now with time running out for him to sign a contract with the Astros, issues are popping up in the negotiations.
Aiken’s advisor, Casey Close, criticized both the Astros and MLB on Monday for the way the team has handled negotiations. The Astros are apparently using a medical concern to leverage the prep hurler into accepting a smaller bonus. Houston is reportedly concerned about an abnormality with Aiken’s elbow ligament.
The Astros and Aiken initially agreed to a $6.5 million bonus, but Houston has since pulled that offer off the table. The revised offer sits at $3,168,840, which is the minimum they are forced to offer Aiken if they want to receive compensation for failing to sign him. The team would receive the No. 2 pick in 2015 if it fails to come to an agreement.
Close had the following to say:
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 the same rules.
Close represents Derek Jeter, Clayton Kershaw and a number of other big-name stars. He’s a well-respected agent who never goes to the press to blast teams and get better deals for his clients (unlike say, Scott Boras). So the fact that he went public in this case is a pretty big deal.
Many observers believe the Astros are low-balling Aiken because after being taken with the top pick overall, he had turned his attention away from college and on to starting his professional career. Low-balling him would give the Astros extra money to sign two of their other draft picks. It is a pretty shady way of doing things.
The Astros clearly didn’t see any problems with Aiken when they decided to make him the top pick in the draft, so agreeing to a deal, then cutting it in half seems like a pretty terrible thing to do. According to Close, Aiken has seen numerous doctors and all agreed that his arm is fin. In addition, Aiken hit 97 mph in his final start before the draft, a clear sign that his elbow is healthy.
The two sides have until Friday to work out a deal, or Aiken will be off to college at UCLA.