Grievance Against Astros Focused On Nix, Not Aiken

Last month, the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the Astros regarding their practices in this year’s draft, but while previous reports indicated that the grievance pertained to both No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection Jacob Nix, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich hears from a pair of sources that the grievance is focused on Nix rather than Aiken.

This doesn’t preclude a grievance being filed for Aiken as well, but Aiken’s case is weaker than that of Nix. Aiken’s physical revealed an abnormality in his ulnar collateral ligament — it was, reportedly, smaller than that of a standard UCL — which led the Astros to attempt to reduce his signing bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement, which therefore caused the Astros to lose the entirety of Aiken’s $7.9MM draft slot from their bonus pool.

As such, Houston could not afford to go significantly over slot to sign Nix, the team’s fifth-round selection. That wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that Nix had already taken a physical and reached a reported verbal agreement on a $1.5MM bonus. When Aiken’s deal fell through, the Astros allegedly backed out of their deal with Nix, creating a great deal of scrutiny from the public, Nix’s camp and the MLBPA.

According to Drellich’s sources, Nix’s grievance will not be addressed until the offseason. His grievance is one of many grievances — nearly all of which go unreported — on a backlog that need to be addressed. The two sides could reach a monetary settlement to avoid bringing the case before an arbiter, but should the case reach arbitration, it would be to determine whether or not the Astros are required to honor their $1.5MM agreement and give Nix a contract. That scenario could have significant ramifications for the Astros, as that bonus would catapult them well beyond their allotted bonus pool. Without Aiken’s $7,922,100 bonus slot, the Astros’ bonus pool shrinks to $5,440,100. As such, Nix’s $1.5MM bonus — which is $1,129,500 above his slot’s $370,500 value — would put the Astros 20.7 percent above their total bonus pool. Such a stark overage would result in not only a 100 percent tax on said overage, but also the loss of a first-round pick in each of the two upcoming drafts.

As for Aiken, a grievance can still be filed. As Drellich notes, the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that a grievance must be filed within 45 days of the offense, meaning that Aiken’s camp could push for a grievance anytime between now and Sept. 1. That’s not a firm deadline, however, as Drellich’s sources indicate that extensions can be granted.


51 Responses to Grievance Against Astros Focused On Nix, Not Aiken Leave a Reply

  1. BVHjays 11 months ago

    Seems the simplest solution is just to require that the Astros pay Nix the $1.5M – or some majority portion of it – as a “penalty”, rather than having to sign him to a contract. That way, even though Nix is still forced to head to college instead of going to the majors, he gets his payday so he isn’t really taking on a ton of extra risk.

    • stl_cards16 11 months ago

      Would Nix still be eligible to play baseball in college? That would be my only concern with this.

      • Steve Adams 11 months ago

        He could go to a Junior College this season and be eligible for the 2015 draft if he wishes. That’s probably the best route for him since the NCAA could throw his association with Casey Close/Excel Sports back at him.

        • Mike1L 11 months ago

          I wonder, in light of the recent court decision on the use of images of college players, if the NCAA really wants another court fight. They could lose, and throw the whole “amateur” nonsense away. They’d be better off staying away, I think.

        • The Padfather 11 months ago

          Steve, Nix would not be able to play as an amateur at all if he wins. He can attend JC for school, but he is already enrolled at UCLA as a scholarship athlete. They would have to expel him from school and release him from his scholarship for him to even attend Juco.

      • The Padfather 11 months ago

        No. No amateur sports period if he wins the case.

    • The Padfather 11 months ago

      If they pay him, he cant play in college. In fact he would be academically ineligible this year and would be forced to leave school entirely.

  2. Karkat 11 months ago

    Nix is the only one with a real case, even though I think it’s mostly just bad negotiating on the Astros’ part, and not strictly a “violation”.

    Honestly if everyone would just sign at-slot deals there wouldn’t be any of these issues -_-

    • unclejesse40 11 months ago

      I wonder what baseball would look like if they treated all of the draft eligible players like international players? Forget about the MLB draft and its 50 some odd rounds, and just say you have this amount of money to sign players that have registered as eligible. If certain teams wanted to blow their whole amount on a few players every year and have an incredibly thin farm system so be it.

      • Ray Ray 11 months ago

        It would look just like baseball before 1965. You would have the Yankees and Dodgers in the World Series practically every year just like the 1950s. It would be horrible.

        For example, the Rockies and Rangers would NEVER be able to get a good pitching prospect and the Padres and Mariners would NEVER get a good power hitting prospect. It just wouldn’t work.

        • unclejesse40 11 months ago

          But in those era’s you didn’t have a pool of money that you could use, it was sign whoever you want for whatever you want. Say you had 15 million dollars of available money that you could use to sign eligible players during a certain window of time, just like the international signing system. I think poor ownership and poor management is more a problem today than small market v big market.

    • jb226 11 months ago

      Verbal agreements CAN be enforced, at least in a regular courtroom. Players don’t typically take physicals until after an agreement is reached, and the Astros have never claimed there was anything about the physical that changed their minds. It will be an interesting one if it makes it to a hearing.

      As far as Aiken, I think he was treated poorly, but it probably wasn’t outside what was allowed.

      • The Padfather 11 months ago

        Nix wasnt signed because his agreement was contingent on Aiken signing. Because of parts of the CBA that the MLBPA demanded, players cannot take a physical until after they agree to terms and those terms are okayed by the office of the Commissioner. The Astros ALWAYS have said that the results of Aiken’s physical are why he wasnt signed at the agreed upon terms. Aiken is a walking time bomb and the two foremost experts on TJ surgery both say that its possible that TJ surgery wont work on Aiken.

  3. pastlives 11 months ago

    pretty awesome scenario for Nix here…no way the Astros can risk losing this in court. Just no way. Nix probably gets his 1.5M and gets to be a kid a while longer in school.

    • The Padfather 11 months ago

      He loses his NCAA eligibility if he wins any amount and its highly unlikely that an arbitrator would rule that he has lost ALL of his value in the draft by not signing. He would also be forced to leave school and not play baseball as an amateur.

  4. snake 11 months ago

    Nix was ranked 104 by Baseball America. Slot for that ranking is about a half million dollars. With his UCLA scholarship you can tack on an extra half million. His agent used leverage to take money from his other client and use it towards Nix. Nix was harmed when his agent’s other client failed the physical. All parties were aware of what was going on the entire time because they were represented by the same agent. No player ever signed an agreement. They will lose the grievance and their NCAA eligibility. What the Astros did was not right but let’s not act like Aiken Nix and Close have clean hands in the situation.

    • godzillacub 11 months ago

      Yeah, Nix absolutely has clean hands less you are calling “negotiating a price” a not clean hands process.

      • snake 11 months ago

        The price was clearly contingent on Aiken signing for below slot. Maybe clean hands wasn’t the exact correct parlance but I meant that everyone knew exactly what was going on and they weren’t innocent bystanders.

        • BacborisTheOriginal 11 months ago

          I also agree.

          When you make oral agreements, the other side should know what you are thinking. If you have unspoken conditions or “are expecting things to happen from a third-party”, they should just pick up on your vibes. As such, the agreement between the parties should be voided. After all, why should the Astros be obligated to keep up any deals they make?

          • Karkat 11 months ago

            Nix and Aiken had the same agen- uh, “advisor” in Casey Close, didn’t they? It was hardly a secret that Nix’s deal was contingent on Aiken’s.

  5. WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 11 months ago

    Nix will just settle with the Astros for an undisclosed amount and reenter the draft next year. Its easy for the Astros or any MLB team to pay a 1.5 MM dollar settlement which will not count against their draft pool.

    • jb226 11 months ago

      Probably so. On the other hand, isn’t it kind of absurd that a grievance for agreeing to a draft signing and then refusing to complete it can result in a settlement that has nothing to do with draft pool dollars?

      In my mind, there was a valid contract or there wasn’t. It should be decided exactly that way with whatever results the outcome brings for either side. “Settling” this unrelated to the draft strikes me as wrong.

      • WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 11 months ago

        It strikes me as wrong too but it is the simplest solution for both sides.

      • The Padfather 11 months ago

        They agreed to the terms of a contract. They did not sign a contract. Nix agent was also Close and he was certainly aware that his deal was contingent on Aiken signing.

  6. hozie007 11 months ago

    Bad CBA is what really caused this. Lack of foresight by the Players Association in negotiating a deal that allows this to happen. There’s no recourse for Nix but to play juco and be ready for next draft and hope the Astros don’t pick you again.

    • jb226 11 months ago

      I’m fairly certain that a player can’t be selected by the same team twice without his permission.

      • hozie007 10 months ago

        The players have no say in who picks them, although teams typically have scouts and front office people that talk to the player in advance and feel out the situation before using a pick. In some case, the teams know that the player won’t sign with them, for whatever reason, but they technically block him from going to another team in the draft and then are rewarded by getting another pick the following year.

  7. andrey 11 months ago

    Not an Astro fan, but I feel the Aiken situation is an example of agents
    failing their clients. The agent’s job is to not take things
    personally and negotiate the best deal for their client. Given the
    number of 1st round picks who fail to ever even reach the majors, I feel
    it is perfectly acceptable for the Astro’s to balk at anything unusual
    in a medical report.
    Will the agent be able to get Aiken 5 million
    next year? and what about the year of investment income that has been
    lost? all because the agent was offended the Astros were doing due
    diligence?
    This reminds me of Kendry Morales and Stephen Drew who
    turned down 14 million qualifying offers because Scott Boras’s ego can’t
    accept anything other than a multi-year deal.
    Player agents are needed, but in these cases they have failed their clients.

    • john 11 months ago

      Did follow the entire run up proceeding the last minute 5 million offer? It was originally agreed at 6.5mil which is below slot value, then they low balled him around 3 or 3.5 something like that for awhile before a last minute offer of 5mil. Meanwhile has it ever been figured out who released his medical records? That could be a potential violation of HIPAA. It was a very poorly handled situation.

      • andrey 11 months ago

        I believe they are not allowed to conduct a medical until they agree on terms. The most likely reason a contract will be cancelled is the medical, it is difficult to hide that from the media.
        When I am buying a house or a used car or getting a mortgage, I always feel the other side is trying to get the most it can and I have to negotiate the best deal for myself.
        Why can’t the agent work right up until the last minute to get the best deal for his client. He earns %10 to %15 to do just that.

        • coldgoldenfalstaff 11 months ago

          A concern is Close’s motivation. As the rep for both players, did he play Nix by pushing too hard for Aiken?

          Boras himself said “Over the years, I can only say we do things differently. That’s about the best I can say‚Ķ We don’t let those things happen”. When Boras thinks an agent isn’t doing the best for his clients, that’s pretty telling.

          Also Nix’s overslot offer was known well before anything was discovered about Aiken’s arm. Close knew exactly how much the Astros could pay Aiken.

      • The Padfather 11 months ago

        Yesm Aiken’s agent Close released them in an effort to say that the congenital abnormality wasnt a problem. Unfortunately for him and Aiken, the Astros team doctor is one of only two guys that do TJ surgery for MLB teams and the other one, Dr James Andrews, confirmed the initial diagnosis. The only reason the Astros made that $3.1 million offer at all was to save their 2015 pick. Aiken is a lost cause and will never earn back what Close lost for him.

  8. Dave Pierce 11 months ago

    I hope the kid wins. I don’t mind/care if MLB creates an exception for the Astros or something, but just hope the kid wins.

    • DippityDoo 11 months ago

      I agree, seems like this turned into a lost summer of development when it didn’t have to, while I don’t know who to blame, I don’t think its the kid.

    • timpa 11 months ago

      MLB/MLBPA/Nix settlement something like Astros forfeit next years 2nd round pick. Nix declared a FA (subject to draft pool limits from other teams), Astros required to pay the difference (if any) from the $1.5m they offered Nix and what he actually signs for.

      Would technically let him sign with any team and still get his same signing bonus. Even a team with almost no draft room throws him a $1000 signing bonus and then the Astros pay the $1,499,000

    • Agreed. There was an agreement in place, and Nix couldn’t have known about Aiken’s medicals. It isn’t his fault that the Astros had already made the commitment

  9. Mike1L 11 months ago

    A settlement would be the smartest thing for all parties at this point. Nix had every reason to expect he had a deal, and it didn’t happen. There are some explanations for that, but the proper risk management technique for both side is a significant payment, and the Nix can either go to college or junior college to decide his future path. Astros keep their slot money, and Nix doesn’t bear all the burden.

  10. Ray Ray 11 months ago

    I hope if the Astros are found guilty of something then they should forfeit the #2 overall pick in next year’s draft. Rewarding them for bad negotiation sets a bad precedent. Let’s say a team has the #1 pick in a weak draft and the next year’s crop looks very strong, why wouldn’t they just tank negotiations on purpose to get a better player the next year,

  11. Scott Krouse 11 months ago

    I don’t have an issue with how they handled the Aiken situation, but the Astros were totally inept and wrong in how they handled Nix. I hope they lose big-time and that aggressive agents like Boras put them on notice that their players will refuse to sign with that organization anymore unless it’s for at least double their slot value going forward.

    Losing picks and a lot of money is completely justified.

  12. Lefty_Orioles_Fan 11 months ago

    Grievance Against Astros Focused On Nix, Not Aiken
    This is getting ridiculous, if not outrageous!
    I look at results on the playing field.
    I look at if they are playing hard night in and night out.
    The Astros are doing that and then some.
    There was a great line in an old school Law and Order last night.
    The Judge said something to the effect, he would be long retired and on a golf course before this nonsense ever returned to the court room!
    I feel the same way about this! They don’t have a case!

  13. z3rogs 11 months ago

    This is due to the shoddy MLB rules governing the process.

    It’s not the Astro’s fault that Aiken’s medicals indicated he was overrated. It’s MLB’s fault that a decision to not sign one player can result in the inability to honor commitments for another. That’s why MLB created the pools in the first place.

    MLB should accept responsibility for this mess, pay a settlement to Nix and give the Astros their pick back next year.

    And fix the process for next year by getting rid of the stupid pool. Each player should be independent.

  14. emume 11 months ago

    So, the MLBPA believes Verbal agreements have rule of law and should be upheld?

  15. bjsguess 11 months ago

    It sure sounded like Nix’s deal was based on a contingency. If the contingency was that Aiken be signed below a certain contract amount then it’s a slam dunk. The contingency wasn’t met and Nix’s deal isn’t valid. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

  16. The Padfather 11 months ago

    Same agent for both players, so Nix has no case. He knew his deal was contingent on Aiken signing prior to agreeing to terms

  17. Mike1L 11 months ago

    I don’t think any one of us has any idea what was communicated back and forth between the Houston FO and Close on Nix. That’s what arbitrations are for, to get facts. I wonder why so many people are so desperate to see the high school kid take it in the chops.

    • The Padfather 11 months ago

      Its Close that needs to take it in the chops. He ruined at the very least the beginning of two kids careers and took generational wealth out of their pockets.

      • Mike1L 11 months ago

        That’s your assumption. We really don’t know anything that went on here, only what we would like to think based on our predilections. Some people detest the Astro FO and think the worst of them. Others take pleasure in 18 year olds taking it in the chops–there have even been calls for these kids to lose all eligibility because, horrors, they did what every other kid negotiating a bonus does and had an advisor.

  18. Pete22 11 months ago

    So basically the Astros are in danger of losing a 1st round pick for 2 years because they tried to save 1.5 million on Aikens over a dubious medical issue. Words do not describe the idiocy. This snafu should be in the HOF under the greatest gaffes category

    • The Padfather 11 months ago

      Aiken agreed to the lower than slot contract prior to the physical. If they signed him for the $6.5 million he and his agent Casey Close agreed to , then they had enough money to sign Nix for the amount he and his agent Casey Close agreed to. All along Nix’s deal was contingent on Aiken signing. Any amounts the Astros lowered their offer to Aiken after the physical was because the two best experts on TJ surgery in the world both said that there is a chance that not only will Aiken get hurt, but that TJ surgery wont be able to fix it. The Astros were trying to salvage a bad situation with the $3.1 million bid. By bidding that amount, they get the #2 overall pick in 2015 to make up for the loss of Aiken. ALL of this could have been avoided if the MLBPA allowed player physicals prior to the draft. Like the Combine in the NFL.

      • Mike1L 11 months ago

        It’s pretty simple. If Houston wanted to sign both all they needed to do was pay Aiken what they originally offered him. Now, I understand their reasons for lowering the offer, but it’s only money. They chose to reduce the offer to 3.1M, making it impossible for the Aiken transaction to go forward, and then started using some of the “savings” for a third person. Aiken chose not to accept, including another offer made with five (5) minutes on the clock to $5M, which would have allowed the Astors to sign all three. Astros had their business reasons. Now they have to live with them.

    • Mike1L 11 months ago

      Pete, I honestly don’t think it was a dubious medical issue, but I also think Houston was opportunistic and saw a possibility to kill four birds with one stone. Get a promising, highly ranked starter at a steep discount where the worst that would happen is that his arm would blow out, but he would have been comparatively cheap. Pick up two more players with the slot savings. And save some money all at the same time. They figured they could have it all.

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