Negotiations between the Houston Astros and top pick Brady Aiken have hit another snag, as Houston continues to lowball the highly regarded prep left-hander, Casey Close (Aiken's advisor and respected head of Excel Sports Management) tells Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
"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 Astros and MLB fired back by saying:
"Throughout this process, we have been in touch with MLB to ensure that we are adhering to the rules at every point and we are confident that this has been the case," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
Pat Courtney, a spokesman for baseball, said, "Major League Baseball is comfortable that the Houston Astros have acted in complete accord with major league rules."
Last week, it was reported that Aiken was suffering from an elbow ligament issue and the Astros were seeking a discount on last month's number one overall selection. The Astros were supposedly seeking a $5 million bonus after originally agreeing on a $6.5 million deal with Aiken. Now it appears that the club is offering even less, as Close tells Rosenthal that Houston has since submitted a $3,168,840 offer, or the bare minimum required to receive the second overall pick next year*.
*Clubs are required to offer at least 40% of the slot amount to each pick in order to be eligible to receive a compensation pick the following year if the draftee does not sign.
The two sides are even bickering on whether Aiken is injured or not. The Astros believe they found a "significant abnormality" in Aiken's physical, though many believe an MRI will reveal "imperfections" in the arms of all pitchers, and the Astros may be using this to their advantage.
Meanwhile, Aiken's camp continues to assert that he is completely healthy, with Close noting that he hit 97 MPH in his final pre-draft start and numerous arm specialists around the country have cleared him health-wise.
The situation also affects the status of another player in Jacob Nix, a California prep right-hander also represented by Close. Nix and the Astros previously agreed on a $1.5 million bonus, which is significantly higher than the pool allotment for the 136th overall pick. However, Houston has since rescinded the offer (despite being agreed to, a contract had yet to be signed), as they risk losing future first round selections by signing him and not reaching an agreement with Aiken. The number one overall pick carries a slot amount of just over $7.9 million, and if Aiken fails to sign, that amount is subtracted from Houston's total pool allowance, which would open them up to penalties as Nix's over slot bonus would push their spending way over the 5% leeway allowed.
The two sides have until Friday, the draft signing deadline, to settle the issue. Aside from Aiken, only Sean Newcomb of the Angels and Erick Fedde of the Nationals have yet to sign among first round picks.