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Jacob Nix Rumors
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.
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.