The Brady Aiken-MLB Draft fiasco is getting really ugly, really fast.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, less than two weeks after Aiken failed to sign a professional contract with the Astros, who selected him first overall in the MLB Entry draft, the MLB Players Union announced it was filing a grievance against the Astros on behalf of Aiken and two other high-round Houston picks: fifth-round selection Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall.
While the official grievance that has been filed is on behalf of all three players, Nix and Marshall are involved almost solely because they fell as collateral damage to the Aiken situation. When the Astros failed to sign Aiken, they lost the opportunity to use subsequent slot allotment money to sign both Nix and Marshall, thereby damaging their own professional opportunities.
To a degree, that is the fault of Major League Baseball’s internal system, but it’s only a fault if the system doesn’t work. Clearly, there’s no reason that a team should fail to sign the top pick in the entire draft, which is precisely why so many have been scratching their heads since the singing deadline passed on July 18.
There are sure to be suits and countersuits galore on the part of the Aiken family, the Astros and others, but here’s what we know at this point: a physical that Aiken took shortly before he was expected to sign with the Astros for a negotiated slot fee uncovered something abnormal about Aiken’s pitching elbow. What precisely it uncovered is unknown, as is the full degree to which the Astros used that as an excuse to curtail Aiken’s expected signing bonus.
Yet we do know that Houston cut Aiken’s signing bonus from an expected number in the $6.5 million range to something just over $3 million, allegedly $3.2 million, which is the minimum that the team would have been required to offer him under a union mandated regulation for signing bonuses after health issues are uncovered in pre-deal physicals.
What the Aiken family and the union are likely to claim is that the signing fee was dropped so precipitously because the Astros decided that they would rather have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft than keep Aiken, particualrly if they had legitimate concern about his durability; the same union provision that holds a team must offer 40 percent of the alloted signing bonus to an injured draft pick also sets the standard that if the player doesn’t sign, the team that selected him will receive one pick lower than the one it missed on signing in the subsequent year’s draft.
That’s a hard claim for the union or Aiken family to try and prove, but clearly one of those parties thinks it has a chance. In the meantime, the most celebrated prep pitcher of 2014 is scrambling to determine what to do next, stuck in a scenario he never anticipated after hearing his name reach the dizzying heights of the top of the MLB Draft.