NL West Notes: Petit, Lincecum, D’Backs, Bradley, Hoffman

There have been plenty of historic moments this season (as is the case each year), but one under-the-radar chase of an MLB record came to a close today, as Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit set a new Major League record by retiring his 46th consecutive batter. Petit’s 46 batters came over a span of eight appearances and included an impressive 26 strikeouts. The 29-year-old will make for an interesting arbitration case this offseason if he remains in the San Francisco rotation going forward, as he’s quietly strung together a pair of excellent seasons after pitching just 4 2/3 innings in the Majors from 2010-12.

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • The man that Petit replaced in the Giants rotation, Tim Lincecum, is perhaps best suited to become a closer at this point in his career, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Cameron notes that the move to the bullpen would likely restore some of Lincecum’s lost velocity, but more importantly, he points out the stark contrast between Lincecum’s numbers with the bases empty and with men on base. Because of his struggles pitching from the stretch, Lincecum wouldn’t be a great fit to be a middle reliever that would inherit runners. Rather, pitching the ninth inning would give him as many opportunities to begin an inning with a clean slate as possible, Cameron writes.
  • Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall was a guest of Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today (audio link), and the Arizona executive discussed the hiring of Tony La Russa: “Tony’s been terrific.  I’ve really enjoyed being with him every day and he’s put a lot of work into this and he’s motivated and he’s so competitive it is fun to watch each and every day.  But I think his assessment, his evaluation is very close to being complete.”
  • Hall also discussed the future of GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, telling Duquette and Ferrin that the organization was getting close to deciding on the future of each. “…when we make those decisions, the sooner the better.  … It doesn’t make sense to go into the offseason, when we already have so many decisions to make with our player personnel, to still be wondering what we’re going to do in the front office. … So I think we’re getting close to the point of knowing what we’re going to want to do and act swiftly so that when the season does end we’re ready to go and get ready for 2015.”
  • Speaking of Towers, the longtime GM participated in a Q&A with Steve Gilbert of MLB.com earlier this week and discussed his recent scouting trip of the team’s minor league system as well as his relationship with La Russa: “It’s nice to have a guy that’s been as successful in uniform around. … It’s nice to be able to pick his brain. I always wanted to pick his brain when he was in the other dugout with the Cardinals. Now when you have him on the same team, it’s very valuable.” Also of note is the fact that Towers said to Gilbert that it was unlikely that top prospect Archie Bradley would be receiving a September callup.
  • Trevor Hoffman will be inducted into the Padres‘ Hall of Fame on Saturday, and to commemorate his historic career, MLB.com’s Corey Brock spoke to a number of catchers that had the privilege of catching the likely Hall of Famer. Brock’s story is full of excellent stories from a number of catchers, including current Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who recalls catching Hoffman’s 600th career save as a rookie in 2010. In describing the legendary closer, Lucroy states: “I always reference Trevor Hoffman when I talk about the kind of guy I want to be.”

Dodgers, Phillies Complete Roberto Hernandez Trade

AUG. 28: The Phillies have announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Victor Arano as the second player in the Hernandez trade. The 19-year-old Arano ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 14 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason Top 20 list.

Arano totaled a 4.08 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 86 innings of work at Class-A Great Lakes this season, making 15 starts and eight relief appearances. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com praise Arano’s 90-91 mph fastball (which tops out at 94 mph) and slider, though they note that his changeup needs more work. Still, Arano is physically mature for a teenager and shows an advanced feel for pitching, per the MLB.com duo, who project him as a starter in the long term despite the fact that he’s presently had more success in the bullpen.

AUG. 16: The Phillies have announced that one of the two players they’re acquiring from the Dodgers is second baseman Jesmuel Valentin, a 2012 first-round pick from Puerto Rico who was hitting .282/.352/.433 for Class A Great Lakes as a 20-year-old. Heading into the season, Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 listed him as the Dodgers’ 22nd-best prospect, projecting him as a utility player. MLB.com ranked him at No. 13 in the Dodgers’ system and was somewhat more optimistic, suggesting he lacks power but could be the sort of hitter who typically bats second in a team’s batting order. He is the son of former big-league infielder Jose Valentin.

AUG. 7: The Phillies announce that they have traded Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players to be named later or cash considerations.  The Phillies placed Hernandez, along with a number of other players, on revocable waivers on Saturday.
USATSI_7861895_154513410_lowres

The Phillies signed Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5MM deal last winter, and he posted a 3.87 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 121 innings for them, with a strong 52.0% ground ball rate. He has gotten good results recently, with a 2.18 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has played parts of nine seasons, also spending time with the Indians and Rays.

Hernandez’s role with the Dodgers is unclear. Obviously, they have a strong rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Josh Beckett has, however, struggled in three outings since returning from the disabled list with a hip injury, and Matt Gelb of the Inquirer tweets that Hernandez will start in Beckett’s place Friday.

For the Phillies, the move marks their first trade of a veteran since their very quiet trade deadline. It may have helped them that Hernandez’s contract was a relatively easy one to trade. The Phillies are currently 51-63 and in last place in the NL East.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark first tweeted that the Phillies would get two “lower-level minor leaguers,” and MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweeted that the Phillies would select them from a group of players.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Diamondbacks Claim Nolan Reimold From Blue Jays

The Diamondbacks announced, via press release, that they have claimed outfielder Nolan Reimold off waivers from the Blue Jays. CompletePhillyCoverage.com writer Seamus Doyle, who is Reimold’s cousin, first tweeted the claim.

The 30-year-old Reimold, a long-time member of the Orioles, was designated for assignment by Baltimore in early July after spending the entire season prior to that point on the disabled list. The Blue Jays claimed him in hopes of receiving an offensive boost with Edwin Encarnacion on the shelf, but Reimold struggled in his time with Toronto, slashing just .212/.283/.404.

Reimold has undergone two neck surgeries in addition to ankle operation in an injury-plagued career, and he’s also spent time on the DL with calf and hamstring injuries in the past two seasons. He owns a career .250/.324/.437 batting line, however, which translates to an OPS+ of 103, indicating that he’s been about three percent better than a league-average hitter when healthy.

Reimold can be controlled through the 2015 season via arbitration and earned just $1.03MM in 2014, so the D’Backs likely view him as a contributor next season as well.



Wade LeBlanc Accepts Outright Assignment

Here are today’s minor moves…

  • Angels left-hander Wade LeBlanc has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Fletcher assumes that LeBlanc will be back with the club in September when rosters expand, though as he notes, LeBlanc is of course no longer on the 40-man roster. Anaheim designated LeBlanc for assignment earlier this week after he struggled in a spot start following Garrett Richards‘ season-ending injury.

Royals Claim Jayson Nix From Pirates

The Royals have claimed infielder Jayson Nix off waivers from the Pirates, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Nix was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh on Monday.

Nix, 31, has bounced around a good deal this year, and will now join his fourth organization on the season. He brings plenty of positional versatility to the table, though his lifetime .214/.284/.347 triple-slash does not give much reason for significant expectations. On the year, Nix has slashed .133/.188/.173 in 82 big league plate appearances.

Kansas City will look to make use of Nix as a part of its September roster expansion plan, as McCullough tweets that the team may not even activate him until after the end of the month.


Montgomery Takes Leave From Phillies; Gillick To Assume Duties

The Phillies have announced major organizational news, as general owner, president, and CEO David Montgomery will take a leave of absence while continuing his cancer treatment. Montgomery has been in charge of the club since 1997, overseeing the franchise’s rise in the first decade of the new millennium.

Taking over his duties in the meantime will be Hall of Fame former general manager Pat Gillick. The longtime executive has served as a senior advisor to the club since leaving active duty. In a statement, the team said that it “looks forward to [Montgomery] returning to his roles … when he is fully recovered.”

The move comes at a difficult time for a Phillies organization that faces many important questions regarding its on-field product. Philadelphia enters the final month of the regular season in last place in the division, leading to questions about the long-term viability of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. — the former Gillick understudy and successor who was hired by Montgomery.

MLBTR joins those around the game who have offered their best wishes to Montgomery as he works his way back.


Mariners To Sign Christopher Torres

The Mariners have agreed to sign Dominican shortstop prospect Christopher Torres with a $375K bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). Torres was rated the 18th-best overall international prospect available on this year’s July 2 market by MLB.com.

While Torres’s bonus is nothing to sneeze at, it falls well shy of the $2.1MM that he was reportedly promised by the Yankees before the club backed out of its commitment. New York is said to have been hit with a $20K fine over the situation.

As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained in reporting the dispute, Torres was left in a particularly difficult spot since other clubs had already promised their international pool space to other players. Torres’s trainer also told Badler that the player had previously been offered $1.6MM by Seattle before reaching terms with the Yankees. You’ll want to give Badler’s entire piece a read to understand the ordeal.

According to MLB.com, Torres brings a switch-hitting bat whose hit tool is better from the left side but delivers more power from the right. Defense and speed are his calling cards at present, though he has a large enough frame that he has some projection at the plate.


East Notes: Colon, Castillo, Tanaka, Yanks, Stanton, Phils

It remains to be seen whether the Mets will pull off a deal for veteran starter Bartolo Colon, whose fate will be one of the most-watched storylines over the next few days. Over at Fangraphs, Mike Petriello questions why there has seemed to be such little demand for the righty, concluding that he is likely worth his $11MM salary for next season and could well be an important last-minute upgrade for a contender.

Here’s more from the east …

  • Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo has obtained a work visa in surprisingly short order and is now clear to play, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Boston will expose him to MLB action this year, but that is now a possibility with about a month left to go in the regular season.
  • The Yankees continue to move forward in a fairly high-stakes attempt to rehab Masahiro Tanaka for a return this year, with success meaning a top-end arm down the stretch and failure potentially meaning a delayed resort to surgery. As George A. King III reports for the New York Post, Tanaka continues to pass hurdles, with colleague Ken Davidson writing that today’s simulated game was a significant step towards a return.
  • Recent acquisitions of the Yankees – including Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, and Chase Headley — could hint at a broader strategic shift, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All of those players have seen action at multiple positions, and Sherman argues that New York could well commit more resources to depth and versatility going forward, essentially putting additional cash behind the strategies of the Athletics and Rays.
  • Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton said that some have misconstrued his recent comments regarding his contractual situation, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports“There is no answer to what my future is,” he said, explaining that some have over-interpreted his words in either direction. Nevertheless, planned offseason extension discussions are sure to lead to immense scrutiny and speculation.
  • Cole Hamels was just the latest Phillies player to publicly show up manager Ryne Sandberg in some manner, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com explains. Though the skipper downplayed the incident and said he has control of his clubhouse, Salisbury paints a picture of a tense situation in Philadelphia. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, this on-field drama is playing out in the midst of broader leadership questions with the club. Martino says that the “fiercely loyal organization” is facing a difficult choice between that loyalty and the evident need for accountability.

West Notes: Darvish, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks

The Rangers and Yu Darvish would be wise to shut down the prized righty, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who says that the “macho baseball culture” that would suggest otherwise is simply wrong. As Passan rightly notes, minor injuries (like Darvish’s, according to reports) can often be a precursor to a more significant problem, and that risk is simply not worth it with Texas playing out a clearly lost season.

Here’s more from the game’s western divisions …

  • Looking ahead to the offseason, the Giants face many impactful and emotionally difficult decisions on pending free agents, GM Brian Sabean said in an interview on The Sports Virus podcast. Emphasizing the club’s oft-noted loyalty, Sabean indicated that monetary constraints would play an important role in how the offseason unfolds (while also seemingly to imply that he could make a run at bringing back Michael Morse). [A]t the end of the year, your starting third baseman, your closer, one of your starters, and your left fielder that you’ve fallen in love with has got a chance not to be back with the team, or you may have to pick and choose due to budget considerations,” he said. “… I don’t remember a year about to end … with those kind of decisions at hand, including keeping it all within a manageable budget.”
  • Athletics GM Billy Beane said that his club’s recent struggles do not change the considerations that led him to deal away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes“I’m happy to have Lester’s three wins,” said Beane. “Those are three wins I don’t know we’d have without him.”
  • Diamondbacks hurler Patrick Corbin is likely not to return until June of next year, at the earliest, as Adam Lichtenstein of MLB.com writes. The club is taking a fairly conservative approach with its prized young lefty.
  • Though Arizona surely has plenty of needs to address after a fairly miserable 2014 campaign, one fairly specific desire is to add an on-base machine to the lineup, GM Kevin Towers tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic“It would be nice to have another bat that was not only an offensive player, but somebody who works the count, gets on base and can create more scoring opportunities,” said Towers. The club is looking to find that package in an outfielder, Towers added, and has already begun scouting possible free agent or trade targets. Players like Nori Aoki and Chris Denorfia could fit the profile, says Piecoro.

Morneau Claimed By Brewers, Pulled Back By Rockies

Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau was claimed off revocable waivers by the Brewers, but pulled back by Colorado when the sides could not reach a deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. An unknown offer from Milwaukee was apparently insufficient to pry Morneau free.

Morneau, 33, has enjoyed a career renaissance since joining the Rockies over the offseason, posting his finest season since his injury-shortened 2010 campaign. Leading the league with a .317 batting average, Morneau has reached base at a .360 clip while slugging an even .500 and swatting 14 home runs in 453 plate appearances. Of course, the lefty has continued to struggle against southpaws, putting up rather sizeable platoon splits (.930 OPS against righties; .655 OPS versus same-handed pitchers).

He does come with an increasingly attractive contract: earning just $5MM this year, Morneau is guaranteed $6.75MM next season along with a $750K buyout on a $9MM mutual option for 2016. (His 2015 salary is likely to rise by $500K based on a plate appearance escalator.) While it would have made little sense for Colorado to give Morneau away for a meager return, it is also fair to wonder whether the cellar-dwelling club should have dealt (and, looking forward, should deal) the veteran while his value is trending upwards.

With his defense and baserunning factored in, Morneau still profiles as less than a 3-WAR player, ranking in the middle of the league’s regular first baggers when his numbers are adjusted to account for playing at Coors Field. But that would have represented a nice upgrade for the Brewers, whose combined first base output stands at 1.5 fWAR and a 92 wRC+.


Latest On Trade Market For Bartolo Colon

WEDNESDAY, 10:21pm: The Dodgers seem not to have serious interest in adding Colon, according to a tweet from Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. The lack of pressing demand may make it difficult for the Mets to achieve their asking price on the veteran hurler; the team is “looking for quality prospects in return,” one executive tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link).

1:42pm: The Royals haven’t been in touch with the Mets regarding Colon since prior to the trade deadline, a source tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

TUESDAY: Right-hander Bartolo Colon cleared waivers yesterday due to his 2015 salary, and the Mets are receiving “definite interest” in the 41-year-old, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted last night. By clearing waivers, Colon became eligible to be traded to any team, but interested parties do have some “trepidation” regarding his $11MM salary for 2015. This morning, Martino has a full column published with further details on the interest in Colon.

Martino spoke with one AL executive who expects the Angels, Dodgers and Royals to be the most active teams in the Colon market, though as Martino notes, Kansas City might not be able to afford the aging righty. The Mets were said to be willing to eat about $2MM of the remaining salary on Colon’s contract in late July, and nothing has changed on that front at this time, Martino reports. Were the Mets to absorb that much money and then wait until Aug. 31 to move Colon (thereby minimizing the financial commitment for a rival club), Colon would be owed $10.52MM for September 2014 (plus the playoffs) and the entirety of the 2015 campaign.

The Mets are interested in not only clearing the bulk of Colon’s salary but also in receiving a decent return in terms of prospects, which further complicates the situation. A second executive from a team that is interested in Colon tells Martino, “Everyone is scared of next year,” suggesting that it might be difficult for GM Sandy Alderson to receive a solid prospect or two while simultaneously clearing significant payroll.


Astros Pull Back Chad Qualls

WEDNESDAY, 8:24pm: With the period for a deal expiring, and Qualls still with Houston, the obvious conclusion is that the Astros failed to work out a deal with Detroit and have revoked the waiver request. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms that Qualls will in fact stay put.

8:18am: A trade is looking increasingly unlikely, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Between Qualls’ highly affordable contract and his desire to play out his contract and retire as an Astro, there’s little motivation to deal him. Beck reports that the Astros recently had a pro scout watching Detroit’s Double-A team, which includes prospects such as Steven Moya, Devon Travis and Angel Nesbitt, all of whom could be of interest to Houston. However, Detroit already parted with top prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson in the Joakim Soria trade, and the team is reluctant to deal more well-regarded prospects for another reliever.

Asked about the waiver claim, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (who caught Qualls for four years from 2004-07) told Beck: “I don’t think there’s anything to talk about. As far as I know, Tigers baseball stance, there’s really nothing to it.”

TUESDAY: Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports that the Tigers were awarded the claim on Qualls (Twitter link). As he notes, it’s hardly surprising that Detroit placed a claim, though it’s at least mildly surprising that the Yankees, who had waiver priority and have been aggressively claiming players, neglected to go after Qualls.

The Tigers have had bullpen issues all season, with Joe Nathan struggling at the back of the bullpen and deadline acquisition Joakim Soria hitting the disabled list with an injury earlier this month. Qualls would provide a solid late-inning option for the Tigers and could serve as a low-cost 2015 replacement for Joba Chamberlain, should the setup man find a new home as a free agent after a strong season in Detroit.

MONDAY, 9:00pm: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that it’s more likely that Qualls will be pulled off waivers than traded.

5:50pm: Astros right-hander Chad Qualls has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). It’s not clear if the Astros are willing to move Qualls, but the Astros will have until Wednesday to work out a deal with the claiming club, Rosenthal adds.

Qualls, 36, signed a two-year, $5.95MM contract with the Astros in the offseason. He’s owed about $531K of his $2.7MM salary through the end of the year, plus a $3MM salary in 2015. His contract contains a $3.5MM salary for the 2016 season which comes with a $250K buyout, bringing his remaining guarantee to about $3.781MM through the end of next season.

The veteran ground-ball specialist has been excellent in 2014, posting a 3.07 ERA (and an identical 3.07 FIP) with 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 and a 56.7 percent ground-ball rate in 44 innings. He’s spent a good deal of time in the closer’s role this season as well, picking up 14 saves for manager Bo Porter.

Houston isn’t averse to trading its closer midseason, as the team pulled the trigger on a trade to send Jose Veras to the Tigers last summer. Somewhat coincidentally, the Tigers are a very likely candidate to have placed a claim on Qualls this season, given their need for bullpen help in a tight AL Central race. However, as Peter Gammons reported over the weekend (Twitter links), the Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, so it’s possible that the Bombers placed a claim with the hope of working out a deal or at the very least blocking their Wild Card competitors from strengthening their bullpens. The Yankees would have waiver priority over the Tigers.


Placed On Revocable Waivers: Wednesday

We’ll use this post to track the players placed on revocable waivers today …

  • The Blue Jays also placed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on waivers on August 25th, Cafardo tweets. That means that he will either clear or have his claim awarded to a team at some point today. (Of course, that does not mean he will ultimately change hands.) Dickey is owed $12MM next year and comes with a $12MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016. He has not shown his Cy Young form since coming to Toronto, and owns a 4.11 ERA over 400 1/3 innings across the last two seasons.
  • The Red Sox placed a series of younger players on revocable waivers yesterday, Cafardo tweets. Bryce Brentz, Drake Britton, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Anthony Ranaudo all hit the wire on Tuesday, and would all appear to be unlikely to clear or be included in any deal.

Earlier Updates

  • Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle has been placed on revocable waivers, according to a tweet from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The 35-year-old lefty has had one of his finest seasons, posting a 3.41 ERA over 161 frames, but is guaranteed $19MM next year in the last season of his heavily backloaded four-year, $58MM contract. Toronto had figured to be a buyer for much of the year, and may well still hold onto its veteran pieces for next year, but now looks to be a longshot for the postseason after slipping back to .500. It is not clear precisely when Buehrle went on the wire.

For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.


Minor Moves: Brignac, Aceves, Joseph

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Phillies infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment with the club rather than electing free agency, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. The 28-year-old Brignac, once a top prospect, has hit .222/.300/.346 in 91 plate appearances this year for Philadelphia.
  • The Yankees have released righty Alfredo Aceves from their Triple-A affiliate, the club announced. The seven-year MLB veteran had struggled to a 6.52 ERA in 19 1/3 frames with the big club this year, but had been more effective in his 28 1/3 minor league frames (3.49 ERA). Aceves generally posted strong results up through 2011, even if his peripherals did not quite support them, but has not been a productive big leaguer since.
  • Also being cut loose by the Yankees is Corban Joseph. The 25-year-old infielder has seen only a cup of coffee at the MLB level, but owns a .260/.343/.424 slash over 855 career Triple-A plate appearances.

Latest On Astros And Brady Aiken, Jacob Nix

AUG. 27, 4:51pm: The Astros are highly unlikely to be afforded any chance to sign Aiken, a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The source also expressed the belief that Selig must have been referring to Nix.

Given the present state of confusion, it should be noted that Aiken could at least theoretically be seeking to receive some accommodation from the league that would not be directly tied to Houston’s own rights, obligations, and interests moving forward. That hypothetical possibility would potentially square reports that the club is not talking with the first overall choice with Selig’s comment that a “solution” of some kind is being pursued.

4:03pm: There are no current discussions between the Astros and Aiken, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. On the other hand, Houston is working to reach agreement on some sort of deal with Nix before his grievance hearing, Heyman says.

Heyman suggests that Selig may have misunderstood the question he was asked — which referred specifically to Aiken — when he said that some “solution” to the Aiken situation was in the works. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Selig said no grievance action had been filed, which is (so far as has been reported) true with respect to Aiken but not Nix.

2:35pm: Commissioner Bud Selig was in San Diego yesterday for the opening of the Padres’ Hall of Fame plaza — named Selig Plaza — and was asked by Jennifer Jensen of 10 News whether or not Aiken had been granted an extension on his signing window:

“We’re working on that right now. There are a lot of things in movement there so it would be inappropriate for me to comment, but I would say we are working towards a hopeful solution.”

Asked a second time, Selig again refused to confirm or deny that an extension had been granted, but he repeated that they are “working toward a solution.” Selig did reveal that no grievance has been filed yet by Aiken’s camp. While his comments are somewhat vague, the commissioner did not shoot down the possibility that Aiken could still reach a deal with the Astros. As Jim Callis of Baseball America points out (on Twitter), it seems fair to assume that the other 29 teams in the league would be none too pleased to see Aiken strike a deal with Houston well beyond the signing deadline.

AUG. 21, 11:46am: “There’s nothing to report, nothing going on there,” Astros owner Jim Crane tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link) in regards to a possible Aiken deal.

11:25am: The Astros could still end up signing first overall draft pick Brady Aiken, and “the expectation from those close to the negotiation” is that the two sides will reach an agreement around the time of Jacob Nix‘s grievance hearing, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (Twitter links).  The MLBPA filed the grievance on Nix’s behalf last month, and the hearing will reportedly be held during the offseason.

As McDaniel puts it, the possibility of Aiken inking a deal beyond the July 18th deadline for signing draft picks is an “MLB’s discretion situation.”  It had been presumed that Houston had forfeited their right to sign Aiken (plus Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall) when they couldn’t reach agreements with any of the players by July 18th.  In failing to sign Aiken, the Astros received the second overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation.

Aiken had a verbal agreement in place with the Astros just a few days after he was selected as the #1 pick in the 2014 draft, but no official deal was finalized due to the team’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, a detail discovered during a post-draft physical.  This led Houston to drop their offer from the agreed-upon $6.5MM bonus (which was already over $1.4MM below the assigned slot price of the first overall pick) to $5MM.  This set off a chain reaction that caused the Astros to pull their $1.5MM agreement with Nix off the table, as signing Nix at that price would’ve put the Astros over their draft pool limit and put them in danger of facing penalties such as the loss of two future first-round picks.

Needless to say, it would be surprising to see Aiken wind up wearing Astros orange given the harsh words that Casey Close (the agent for both Aiken and Nix) had for the organization and GM Jeff Luhnow in the wake of the controversy.  As it stands, Aiken would have to either attend a junior college and re-enter the draft next year or commit to a college and not be able to turn pro for three more years.  It’s possible the high schooler is simply eager to begin his professional career and/or wants some financial security now, given that anything could happen to lower his stock over the next 1-3 years.

For the Astros, signing Aiken would help the team save face after it was widely criticized for its handling of the situation.  Aiken has until September 1 to file a grievance himself, though that deadline could be extended.