2014 Amateur Draft Rumors

Draft Notes: Bonuses, Astros, Aiken

67 players in this year’s draft signed for at least $1MM, Clint Longenecker of Baseball America writes. Many teams signed two players to deals worth at least $1MM, although the Indians, Pirates and Royals, who all had extra Day 1 picks, signed four players each to deals worth that much. The Orioles, who didn’t have a selection until the No. 90 overall pick, were the only team without a $1MM signing. Here are notes on the draft.

  • The Astros‘ failure to sign Brady Aiken is baffling, MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes. The difference between the Astros’ final offer of $5MM and the $6.5MM to which the two parties initially agreed is tiny in terms of MLB talent. Meanwhile, another draft pick, Jacob Nix, saw his own deal disappear as the Astros lost the bonus pool allotment for the first overall pick. Justice also argues that it will take time for the Astros to repair the damage to their reputation the Aiken decision will cause.
  • Nobody wins” in the Aiken/Astros snafu, Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca writes. Nix, in particular, loses out through no fault of his own. Nicholson-Smith cites an agent who notes that the current system forces teams to prioritize balancing their draft budgets, even when that means they lose out on talent — because the Astros didn’t sign Aiken, they couldn’t sign Nix, even though Nix and the Astros had previously agreed to a deal.
  • Aiken advisor Casey Close ripped Astros GM Jeff Luhnow on the phone for leaking the results of Aiken’s physical, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Close also reportedly suggested that other teams dislike dealing with the Astros because of their approach in negotiations.

Astros Fail To Sign Aiken, Nix, Marshall

The Astros did not sign first-round pick Brady Aiken or fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (on Twitter). Aiken becomes just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to not sign, per Callis (Twitter link). Nix had previously been reported to have agreed to terms, which Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter) was by way of a verbal agreement.

The two young pitchers are both reportedly advised by Casey Close. Houston also ultimately failed to reach terms with another well-regarded arm, 21st-rounder Mac Marshall, Callis adds. That confirms Marshall’s own announcement that he would instead attend LSU.

The Astros will receive the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft, Callis further notes, meaning that Houston did at least offer Aiken 40 percent of his slot value ($3,168,840), which Aiken did not accept. In fact, Houston ultimately upped its offer to $5MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). “We tried to engage Casey Close three times today,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), but “there was no interest.” Ultimately, the team made three offers today, Heyman tweets, the second of which came with 30 minutes left on the clock. The final, $5MM offer was made with just five minutes to go. Aiken did not counter any of the offers.

Aiken and the Astros had reportedly agreed upon a $6.5MM bonus, with Aiken heading to Houston for his physical and an introduction. But things took a turn when a dispute arose over the interpretation of MRI results regarding Aiken’s elbow.

In many ways, the news represents a disappointing result for both Houston and the two players who had been expected to sign. The club will of course have an opportunity to choose another top-end player next year (along with the team’s regular first-round choice, which should be a good one), but will have to wait to get that player started. And Houston will miss out on a pitcher who Luhnow himself called the “most advanced high school pitcher” he’s even seen. Not only that, but the team has now foregone the opportunity to sign Nix, and could even face some form of grievance proceeding as a result of the handling of Nix’s negotiations.

Meanwhile, Aiken will need to perform at rather a high level to beat the $5MM that he ultimately was offered, and will need to wait some time for a check to cash. It is not yet clear where he will go, though presumably he will either enroll at UCLA (where he was committed) or else choose the junior college route. Of course, the very public nature of the recent negotiations regarding Aiken and Nix might conceivably have some ramifications for those players’ future collegiate eligibility, which would obviously be an unfortunate byproduct of a difficult situation.

Needless to say, the situation has led to quite a bit of chatter around the game. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis explains, speculation arose that Houston was hoping to drive down Aiken’s price in a bid to make a last-minute run at Marshall, who had long before said he was going to college. Of course, it was never certain that such a possibility was realistic, let alone that the club would ultimately pass on the chance to add Aiken (and with him Nix) without some genuine concern.

Indeed, the apparent medical dispute regarding Aiken, and its impact on Nix, have led to indications that fallout may be yet to come. The Astros released a statement, saying that the club’s final offer was “extremely fair considering all the factors involved in this case” and insisting that the team “approached these negotiations in good faith and with the best interests of the Astros organization in mind, both short-term and long-term.”

But the MLB Player’s Association sees things somewhat differently, stating the view that Aiken and Nix were wronged. “Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” said executive director Tony Clark. Because of the actions of the Houston Astros, they are not. The MLBPA, the players and their advisers are exploring all legal options.”

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Nationals Sign Erick Fedde

The Nationals have signed first-rounder Erick Fedde for a $2,511,100 bonus, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (on Twitter). That amount represented the maximum the team could allot to Fedde without forfeiting future draft picks.

It went right down to the wire yet again for Washington and a first-round choice being advised by Scott Boras. But, as usual, the deal was made. Things were obviously complicated in this case by several factors, including Fedde’s recent Tommy John surgery (which caused his drop) and the Nats’ inability to ink two of the club’s picks from the first ten rounds.

In the end, the Nationals will take over the rehab process of a pitcher who looked destined for the first ten rounds before tearing his UCL. Of course, the Nationals have plenty of experience dealing with TJ recovery, with a rotation headed by two recent patients and a farm system led by a player in Lucas Giolito whose draft situation closely resembled Fedde’s.



Nats Nearing Deal With Fedde, Won’t Sign Suarez

2:22pm: The team’s second-round pick, Andrew Suarez, has announced that he will return to the University of Miami rather than sign via his Instagram account. The Hurricanes also tweeted an announcement that the left-hander will be returning.

MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets that with the Nats not signing Suarez or ninth-round pick Austin Byler, the max amount they can give Fedde without losing a first-round pick is $2,511,100.

2:08pm: Fedde’s signing bonus will be between $2.5MM and $2.6MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

1:32pm: The Nationals are nearing a deal with first-rounder Erick Fedde, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (on Twitter). A deal between the two sides will “almost certainly” get done in advance of today’s signing deadline, which is just two and a half hours away.

Fedde was projected as a potential top 10 pick in the draft before the difficult news that he would require Tommy John surgery caused him to slide. The Nationals, never ones to let an injury scare prevent them from drafting a high-end talent (they also selected Lucas Giolito in the first round in 2012), snatched the UNLV ace up with the 18th overall pick, which carries a slot value of $2,145,600. As Kilgore noted in a previous piece, there were teams in the late first round that had expressed interest in going as high as $3MM on a signing bonus for Fedde, making his negotiations with the Nats complicated, to say the least.

Fedde’s operation caused him to slide down pre-draft rankings. Keith Law ranked him 27th at ESPN.com, while Baseball America had him ranked 24th, and MLB.com’s duo of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo ranked him 33rd.


Angels Agree To Terms With Sean Newcomb

The Angels and first-round pick Sean Newcomb have agreed to terms, according Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that the exact figure is a $2,518,400 signing bonus. That number was the maximum amount of money the Halos could allot to Newcomb without exceeding their bonus pool. Newcomb was advised by and is now a client of the Legacy Agency.

The 6’5″, 240-pound Newcomb was electric for the University of Hartford this season, posting an 8-2 record with a pristine 1.25 ERA and a 106-to-38 K/BB ratio in 93 1/3 innings of work. Opponents hit just .162 against him in 2014, albeit in a relatively weak college conference.

Newcomb fell to the Halos with the 15th overall pick — a spot at which the Angels assumed the left-hander would be off the board, scouting director Ric Wilson told DiGiovanna. Newcomb’s No. 15 overall slot comes with a value of $2,475,600, according to Baseball America, meaning he received about $42K over slot to sign with the Angels.

The Angels probably weren’t the only ones surprised to see Newcomb on the board with their pick. Keith Law of ESPN ranked Newcomb as the No. 7 prospect in this year’s draft, while Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com ranked him ninth, and Baseball America ranked him 11th. Law notes that many will compare him to Sean Manaea — another big lefty with good velocity from a weak conference. Newcomb’s upside might not be quite as high, Law writes, but his fastball consistently touched 96 mph, and his command improved in 2014 as well. BA notes that his breaking pitch varies between curveball and slider, but most scouts think his curve will be the better pitch. BA and Law both feel his changeup can be an average third offering, though he hasn’t used it often to this point.


Giants To Sign Draft Picks Logan Webb, Austin Slater

Just a handful of picks from the top 10 rounds of the 2014 draft remain unsigned. Here are the latest signings as we inch toward tomorrow’s 5pm ET deadline…

  • The Giants have signed fourth-rounder Logan Webb and eighth-round pick Austin Slater. MLB.com’s Jim Callis reported the Webb agreement (via Twitter) and a $600K bonus, while Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA first tweeted that Slater had agreed to terms. According to Callis, Slater receives a $200K bonus. Webb, a high-school righty out of California, had a slot value of $440,600, and he features a mid-90s fastball. A two-sport star (he was also a quarterback), Webb ranked 214th on Baseball America’s Top 500 list. Slater, meanwhile, ranked 139th on that same list. The Stanford outfielder has good speed and gap power, and his bonus was about $31K over slot.
  • As Callis tweets, there are now just nine picks from the top 10 rounds that remain unsigned. Of particular note are first-rounders Brady Aiken (Astros), Sean Newcomb (Angels) and Erick Fedde (Nationals). Newcomb, however, is said to be nearing a deal.

Angels Near Deal With First-Rounder Sean Newcomb

The Angels are closing in on a deal with first-round pick Sean Newcomb, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times hears the same and spoke on the record with Newcomb’s advisor, Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency. “We’re certainly working toward a deal,” Genske told DiGiovanna. “It probably gets done. We’re pretty close, but nothing has been finalized.” Tomorrow afternoon at 5pm ET is the deadline for teams to sign their 2014 draft picks.

The 6’5″, 240-pound Newcomb was electric for the University of Hartford this season, posting an 8-2 record with a pristine 1.25 ERA and a 106-to-38 K/BB ratio in 93 1/3 innings of work. Opponents hit just .162 against him this season.

Newcomb fell to the Halos with the 15th overall pick — a spot at which the Angels assumed the left-hander would be off the board, scouting director Ric Wilson told DiGiovanna. Newcomb’s No. 15 overall slot comes with a value of $2,475,600, according to Baseball America.

According to the Baseball America Draft Database, the Angels have $2,518,800 remaining to sign Hartford without exceeding their bonus pool (they’ve already signed picks No. 2-10). Of course, they can still exceed their pool by less than five percent and be subject only to overage taxes. If they exceed their bonus pool by more than five percent they would lose their first-round pick in the 2015 draft (in addition to paying a 100 percent overage tax). The maximum amount that the Halos can give Newcomb without losing future picks, per BA, is $2,807,500 — roughly 13 percent greater than his slot value.


Latest On Astros, Brady Aiken

JULY 15, 6:35pm: The concern regarding Aiken involves his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle“He may have some [of the ligament], but not much,” the source said, apparently referring to the natural size — rather than any tearing — of Aiken’s UCL. A hypothetical Tommy John procedure would not be a straightforward solution in Aiken’s case, the source adds.

While the issue may be “cut-and-dry,” per Drellich’s source, it appears that its interpretation is the crux of the ongoing debate. The young lefty has seen two team doctors and three independent specialists (including Dr. James Andrews) to assess the situation, according to Drellich. Close, Aiken’s agent, told Rosenthal that his client “has been seen by some of the most experienced and respected orthopedic arm specialists in the country, and all of those doctors have acknowledged that he’s not injured and that he’s ready to start his professional career.”

Drellich spoke with an expert orthopedist — Dr. Chris Geary of the Tufts Medical center, apparently not among those who have seen Aiken — who tells him that a congenitally small UCL would not necessarily indicate a greater risk of a UCL tear or lowered success rate if a TJ procedure became necessary. Geary indicated that further information would be necessary to assess Aiken’s overall susceptibility to elbow trouble, and said that other physical attributes could mean that he is perfectly capable of pitching without any particular concern.

9:54am: The Astros believe that Aiken’s MRI revealed a “significant abnormality,” Major League sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, tells Rosenthal that the team has made just one revised offer — a bonus of $3,168,840. That amount represents the minimum bonus Houston would need to offer in order to receive the second pick in next year’s draft as compensation.

Close, who insists that Aiken is asymptomatic and healthy, offered some harsh words for the Astros and the way they’ve handled negotiations:

“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.”

Meanwhile, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Rosenthal that he has been in contact with MLB throughout the entire process to ensure that their actions were within the rules. Pat Courtney, a spokesperson for MLB, said that “Major League Baseball is comfortable that the Houston Astros have acted in complete accord with Major League rules.”

Rosenthal reports that the team informed Nix’s family that the reported $1.5MM agreement between the two sides had to be rescinded because the team first needed to complete its deal with Aiken before finalizing that deal.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the players’ association will weigh all options in support of the players. Specifically regarding Nix, he said: “We believe that it is a clear violation of the rules being attempted solely to avoid penalty. The Astros made a deal with Jacob Nix and should honor that agreement.”

This Friday is the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks.

JULY 7, 4:19pm: Drellich spoke with Aiken’s athletic trainer, Paul Flores, who says that to his knowledge, Aiken is “absolutely healthy.” Flores says that there is nothing Aiken is unable to do in their regular workouts, adding: “When it comes to throwing off a mound, that’s not my area of expertise. But I know he’s throwing, so. He’s not in pain. He comes to me after, and I always ask, … ‘How do you feel today?’ … He always tells me he feels great — and not good — great.”

1:25pm: The ominous delay between No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken‘s arrival in Houston to sign his contract and the announcement of an official deal now has some clarity, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Aiken has an issue with a ligament in his left elbow. The Astros are now seeking to reduce his signing bonus from the previously agreed upon $6.5MM to $5MM, according to Heyman’s sources.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated recently that there might be an issue with Aiken’s ligament, noting that the curiously long delay between his arrival to sign his contract and an announcement from the Astros was similar to the delay when a free agent fails his physical.

As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explained in late June, Aiken would become a free agent if he failed his physical and the Astros did not make an offer of at least 40 percent of his slot value (roughly $3.17MM). Clearly, based on Heyman’s report, Houston is still comfortable enough with Aiken’s elbow that this scenario is unlikely.

However, the Astros would also lose the value of Aiken’s slot from their bonus pool should he elect not to sign, which would be problematic. The Astros were set to save about $1.4MM on Aiken’s original $6.5MM bonus, and a great deal of those savings were reserved for the $1.5MM bonus they’ve agreed to with fifth-rounder Jacob Nix – a bonus that is $1.13MM over slot. It is in Houston’s best interest to get some form of deal worked out, as losing Aiken’s slot would drop Houston’s overall pool to roughly $5.44MM, leaving them unable to officially sign Nix at that figure without incurring penalties in future drafts (the maximum penalty, which is enforced if a team exceeds its draft pool by more than 15 percent, is the forfeiture of a team’s next two first-round picks and a 100 percent luxury tax on the overage).

Obviously, the news is troubling for Astros fans, who had hoped Aiken would sign quickly and begin his progression from high school superstar to the mound Minute Maid Park. The Astros have until July 18 to finalize a deal with Aiken. The team would receive the No. 2 selection in next year’s draft, should it fail to come to terms with Aiken.


AL West Notes: Aiken, Altuve, Appel, Butler, Zobrist, Price

Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…

  • Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
  • The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
  • The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
  • Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.

Giants Agree To Terms With Second & Third-Round Picks

4:31pm: The Giants have also inked third-rounder Dylan Davis for a $650K bonus, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com. That lands just over the $622,300 slot allocation that came with the 87th pick.

The Oregon State outfielder was rated 74th on MLB.com’s list, 77th on that of ESPN.com’s Keith Law, and 93rd by Baseball America. In addition to his power bat, Davis also owns a mid-90s fastball.

11:32am: The Giants and second-round pick Aramis Garcia, reports Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA (on Twitter). The catcher from FIU will receive a $1.1MM signing bonus, which is slightly above the slot value for the No. 52 overall selection ($1,066,900).

Garcia ranked 74th on Baseball America’s list of the Top 500 draft prospects, and he ranked 78th on the Top 200 compiled by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo over at MLB.com. Garcia’s bat draws more praise than his glove from both scouting reports, with BA noting that he profiles as an offense-first catcher with a good approach to all fields. Callis and Mayo note that while he currently has more of a line-drive stroke, some feel that he can grow into more power as his lean, 6’2″, 200-pound frame fills out a bit more. Both outlets note that he has an average throwing arm but will need some work on his footwork and blocking skills.

Garcia’s Junior season at FIU was very impressive from a statistical standpoint, as he batted .368/.442/.626 with eight homers, 14 doubles and two triples. He caught 27 percent of opposing base stealers.