For the third time in MLB history, a No. 1 draft pick has failed to sign, with the Astros and left-hander Brady Aiken failing to come to terms on Friday.
The news, as reported by MLB.com's Jim Callis, came as a bit of a shock given that both sides stood to benefit from a potential deal, but that wasn't enough to prevent the signing from falling through. Worse yet for the Astros, top prospects Mac Marshall and Jacob Nix didn't sign either, which could lead to some legal issues on top of the Astros losing out on lots of good, young talent.
The news has drawn mixed reactions from the baseball community. ESPN's Jim Bowden broke it down, saying that the Astros "felt that the #2 pick next year will be as talented or more than Aiken without any health risk to go along with it."
Even so, the team's failure to sign Aiken puts a dent in its rebuilding plans, which had been moving at a glacial pace as it is. It also might force the team to pursue college players in the earlier rounds next year—as opposed to high school prospects, who generally take longer to move through the farm system.
Legal troubles could also come back to bite GM Jeff Luhnow and the Astros. Fox Sports' Jon Morosi recently reported that MLBPA executive director Tony Clark stated that the MLBPA and two players are "exploring all legal options," and given what transpired with Nix, they might have a case. The fifth-round pick agreed to a $1.5 million signing bonus on June 17, according to a report by Callis—a significant cut above the slot value for Nix's draft spot.
At the very least, the UCLA Bruins could have one of the best rotations in the country next season if Aiken and Nix, both UCLA commits, chose to go that route. But if the issue wasn't complicated enough, the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich wrote that Aiken's NCAA eligibility (and leverage) might be at risk. Of course, playing at UCLA would mean that Aiken and Nix wouldn't be eligible for the draft for another three years, a risky move for such highly valued prospects. As Drellich notes, a year at junior college might be a more prudent option.
The real interesting part of the deal is that the Astros agreed to offer Aiken a $5 million signing bonus just before the deadline, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, but the left-hander "just said no," without a counteroffer. Minor League Ball's John Sickels felt that was a "huge gamble on Aiken's part," and it's hard to disagree with him. The $5 million would have been a significant drop-off from the $7.9 million draft bonus pool value for the first overall pick, but it's also easy to imagine Aiken not coming close to reaching the $5 million bonus whenever he is drafted next.
In short, both sides stood to lose a lot from the deal falling through, and that's exactly what happened.