Awful break for Aiken, and a huge shake-up for the top of the 2015 Rule-4/Amateur draft.
Quick oral history of the Aiken situation: Houston made him last year’s #1 overall pick, then rescinded/altered their $6.5M bonus offer after having “concerns” about Aiken’s UCL when viewing his medicals. Aiken’s representatives rejected the lowered offer (wanting Houston to honor their original offer), and in the end declined to sign the lower amount (reportedly $5M at the deadline), and Aiken became just the third #1 overall pick to fail to sign in the draft’s history. Thanks to baseball’s convoluted draft bonus rules, the failure to sign Aiken led to a cascading effect, costing them enough “pool dollars” to have to also rescind offers to 5th round pick Jacob Nix and 21st round pick Mac Marshall (now at LSU). Nix (rightly so) filed a grievance against the Astros for the situation and was awarded his full $1.5M promised bonus (which, in my opinion, should absolutely be coming out of the Astros’ bonus pool for what they did). Nix and Aiken eventually enrolled at the IMG academy in Florida, a post-graduate prep school designed to be a place for budding athletes to play who may have lost their HS eligibility. Both had planned on re-entering the 2015 draft.
My thoughts on this whole mess?
- I have to re-evaluate my opinion of the Astros organization’s behavior; previously I thought they were just being penny pinchers and were screwing with the careers of multiple amateur players (both Nix and Aiken lost UCLA scholarships over the mess). Clearly they were right to be concerned about Aiken’s elbow, given that it tore within about 20 pitches of last being on the mound. And now they get two top-5 picks out of a draft that does have some talent in it … and should have the money to sign them.
- That being said … what was the real difference between their initial $6.5M offer and the $5M final offer? Think about it: why are teams so ridiculously obsessed with figures in the $1-$2M range during amateur signings, when teams are *routinely* giving out 8-figure deals to mediocre veterans? The Astros gave Luke Gregerson 3yrs/$18.5M and Pat Neshek 2yrs/$12.5M deals this off-season; that’s a combined $30M for two middle relief right handers. They’ve been the lowest payroll team despite a massive RSN deal and play in the nation’s 4th largest market. You mean to tell me they couldn’t still pony up the $1.5M difference for the #1 overall pick in the draft? They couldn’t have just gotten an insurance policy to cover their risk of moving forward with Aiken?
- If you were the Astros today, wouldn’t you rather have Aiken (with insurance policy), Nix and Marshall in the fold? Do you think maybe your professional staff could have managed/mitigated this injury?
- Did Aiken cut off his nose to spite his face by rejecting $5M? Even before this injury, he was already dropping on draft boards, no sure guarantee to go 1st overall in 2015. And with Houston holding the #2 and #5 overall picks there was already a real possibility of Aiken dropping outside the top 5 (since clearly Aiken would have refused “re-draft” possibilities), which means he’d have a heck of a time getting anywhere close to even the $5M he turned down. At some point his adviser should have just accepted the deal, in my opinion. The new rules just make it impossible to get anything close to the bonus he turned down unless you’re #1 overall.
- The situation kind of reminds me of the Matt Harrington situation, who turned down multiple bonus offers (one as high as $4M) and kept seeing his draft stock fall until he finally signed as a run-of-the-mill 13th rounder and quickly flamed out of pro ball. His wiki page details the whole mess of a story.
There does exist a possibility of a team picking Aiken despite this injury. Both Jeff Hoffman and our own Erick Fedde were picked in the mid-to-upper 1st round despite being rehabbing TJ arms. And Aiken was more heralded than either guy. I could see a team with a longer term view taking a chance on Aiken in the top 10. A quick look at the 2015 draft order reveals some “gambler” type teams/GMs in the top 10 who could make a deal. Assuming that your top-end names under consideration include the likes of Mike Matuella, Brendan Rodgers, Kolby Allard, Dillon Tate and maybe even someone like UVA’s Nathan Kirby , that could put teams in the 6-10 spot right in line to pick Aiken. And that 6-10 range includes both Chicago teams and Boston, rich teams that could afford to wait him out.
One thing for sure; the odds of the Nationals getting another shot to pick a TJ case are slim; we gave up our 1st rounder to sign Max Scherzer and won’t pick until the 58th overall spot (compensation for not signing Miami’s Andrew Suarez last year). I don’t think Aiken lasts til the 10th pick; certainly he won’t be there in the mid 2nd round.
Tough break for Aiken; hope he can salvage some bonus money and start his career.
Other opinions/hot takes I’ve read of use:
- Jeff Ellis at Scout.com predicts the same that I do for Aiken’s draft status; top-10.
- David Schoenfield at ESPN talks about Aiken and the “inequalities” between being born in the USA and elsewhere in the draft/signing markets (and the discrepancies are ridiculous).
- Dave Cameron at fangraphs has some quotes from Aiken’s social media posting announcing his surgery and some critical analysis.
Post-posting update: presumed top-5 draft talent Kolby Allard is also out for the season with a back injury, further thinning the list of names in consideration for the #1 overall pick so far.
Another post-posting update: on 4/1/15, Duke ace (and NoVa native) Mike Matuella announced the he too has to have Tommy John surgery. That’s three presumed top-5 picks in the upcoming draft now out with season-ending injuries. Wow.