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.