The 5:00 p.m. EDT deadline came and went without a deal, and 17-year-old LHP Brady Aiken, the number one overall pick in the 2014 June amateur draft was not signed by the Houston Astros, meaning he will not be eligible to play professionally this season. While no official announcement has been made (as of 5:20 p.m. EDT), Jim Callis, Senior Writer for MLB.com, tweeted a “confirmation”
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) July 18, 2014
Without the signing bonus “slot” value afforded to them by the number one pick, the Astros also missed out on fifth-round pick Jacob Nix and 21st round pick Mac Marshall, both of whom had strong college commitments (to UCLA and LSU respectively). It was well known they both were going to require higher than slot signing bonuses that the Astros hoped have after signing Aiken below slot.
The Astros agreed to a deal in principle with their top choice from San Diego in the days just after the draft ended, however elbow questions began to emerge after a team physical. Some, including MLB Players Association president (and former All-Star) Tony Clark, feel that the Astros were manipulating the medical information to free up money to pay two other unsigned picks who have strong college commitments (reported by the AP via Fox Business):
“It is disappointing on any number of levels to think that what has happened in that situation, what has happened with respect with integrity of the draft process in general,” union head Tony Clark told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday [July 15]. “Our hope here going forward is that what we think has happened didn’t happen. But you can rest assured that the manipulation that we think happened in this case is going to lead us to have some conversations that are going to make sure that players receive the support that they deserve.”
The Astros maintain that they have real questions about his health and the higher signing bonus was too risky. So risky they’ll let the draft come and go without taking advantage of that pick. Because they made a qualifying offer (40% of slot), they will qualify for the number 2 overall pick in 2015.
Aiken’s immediate future is cloudy, as well. If he fulfills his commitment to UCLA, he will not be eligible for the draft again until 2017. He could check down to Junior College and wait one year for another crack at the draft in 2015. There are some questions about his college eligibility hinging upon how his negotiations were handled (i.e. by an agent or with the family) and what the adviser’s actions have been to date. There could also be legal proceedings, potentially rendering him a free agent.
This is a major blow to the Astros rebuilding program, having stockpiled three straight number one overall picks (2012 Carlos Correa, 2013 Mark Appel). But with two high draft picks next season (the Astros currently sit in the bottom 3 teams of the majors), a recovery is possible.
– David Whitlock
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