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Jacob Nix Rumors
The Padres have agreed to terms with righty Jacob Nix on a $900K signing bonus, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. The 86th choice in the draft came with a $687,300 pick value, meaning that San Diego went over $200K over slot to add Nix.
Of course, Nix thought he had an even larger bonus locked up last year with the Astros, before he was caught up in the Brady Aiken saga. He ultimately landed at IMG Academy for a year and brought a grievance action against Houston (reportedly settling for a six-figure payout).
Now advised by MVP Sports, Nix drew plenty of top-forty pre-draft ratings. Keith Law of ESPN.com was highest on Nix, rating him the 32nd-best player available and saying he has mid-rotation starter upside. Baseball America and MLB.com concurred that Nix had back of first-round talent, while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs dropped Nix to 81st on his list.
The Nationals can finalize their acquisition of Padres shortstop Trea Turner as soon as June 14, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Turner, the widely-reported player to be named later in the deal that delivered Wil Myers to San Diego — with the Nationals giving up Steven Souza (to the Rays) and also picking up righty Joe Ross — has remained with the Padres organization under the since-changed rules regarding drafted players. The 21-year-old owns a .322/.389/.478 slash with five home runs and ten steals in 231 plate appearances at Double-A.
- Several notable names have come off the board early on day two of the draft. Duke righty Michael Matuella went to the Rangers with the third pick of the third round (78th overall). Not long after, the Padres took fellow right-hander Jacob Nix, whom the Astros were unable to sign last year after their deal with top pick Brady Aiken fell through. And the Nationals grabbed Mariano Rivera Jr. with the 134th choice.
- Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs offers his thoughts on yesterday’s draft proceedings, explaining that it is premature to judge the Marlins harshly at this juncture for choosing young slugger Josh Naylor in the first round (much higher than most pundits had him rated). After all, as McDaniel rightly notes, the supposed “value” of a pick will never be as important in the long run as the simple fact of whether that player develops and produces, and at some point teams simply have to take guys they believe in when they can get them. Check out the piece for Kiley’s views on the clubs that chose well on the draft’s first day.
- Amateur players come to clubs through the draft and the international signing market, of course, making comparison difficult. Ben Badler of Baseball America discusses the latest news and analysis on the Cuban market, providing a helpful guide on several notable names by assigning them a rough (and entirely hypothetical) draft value. Notably, Badler does not share the optimism that some have expressed regarding righty Yadier Alvarez and, in particular, outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez.
Last night, we watched as the first two rounds of this year’s Rule 4 draft hit the books. We tracked the first 42 picks (here and here), but of course another 33 choices were made after that. You can find the complete results of the first day at MLB.com.
Here are some links to check out as we look back at yesterday and look forward to the rest of the draft:
- Baseball America lists the best players still available, which includes names like high school righties Donny Everett and Dakota Chalmers as well as former Astros pick Jacob Nix.
- The most intriguing player still on the board, perhaps, is Duke starter Michael Matuella, who was at one point regarded as a possible 1-1 selection but underwent Tommy John surgery late in the season and has dealt with other injury issues. It has to be considered at least possible at this point that he’ll return to college for his senior year; indeed, he acknowledged as much recently, as Laura Keeley of the Charlotte Observer reported. “That’s definitely an option I’m evaluating,” said Matuella. “I’m hoping a good opportunity presents itself. I really haven’t come up with a certain [draft round] cutoff. I’ll evaluate it case by case and see if there’s a good opportunity for me.” Of course, it would not be surprising to see a team with a large bonus pool take a shot on him today.
- Diamondbacks scouting director Deric Ladnier says that the club has been locked in on first overall pick Dansby Swanson for some time, as Teddy Cahill of Baseball America writes in breaking down the first day of the draft. “This is the player we wanted,” said Ladnier. “We wanted him for a while.”
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells MLB Network Radio (audio link) that Houston saw second overall pick Alex Bregman (LSU) as a “no-brainer” of a selection, noting that the club believes Bregman is plenty capable of sticking at short. The team’s top baseball man noted that he’s not worried about the possibility of a future infield logjam. “The good thing about having guys at the premium positions is … their fall-back is to play another position,” said Luhnow.
- It goes without saying, really, that it’s too early to evaluate the results of day one, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com compares the Astros’ haul to their 2012 draft in terms of the volume of premium talent. Houston made plenty of noise yesterday — as might have been expected given its league-high bonus pool — in adding highly-regarded high school outfielders Kyle Tucker and Daz Cameron to go with Bregman. Heyman also notes that the Dodgers seemingly achieved good value in nabbing righties Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser with the 24th and 35th selections.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com pegs the Blue Jays‘ selection of Missouri State righty Jon Harris (29th overall) and the Rockies‘ choice of high school hurler Mike Nikorak (at 27) as two of the best three picks, joining Cameron. The biggest suprise, per Callis, was the Marlins‘ decision to grab young first baseman Josh Naylor in the 12th slot.
- As a reminder, MLBTR’s draft primer contains links to many essential draft materials.
Babe Ruth pioneered many things in baseball, of course, and one lesser-known among them came in the insurance arena, as Richard Sandomir writes for the New York Times. Before the 1920 campaign, Ruth took out a disability policy of the kind that is now standard for players looking to protect themselves from injury or illness.
Here are some more stray notes from around the game:
- 31-year-old righty Kevin Slowey has joined the MLBPA as a special assistant, per a press release. He’ll assist in the union’s preparations for the coming collective bargaining negotiations. Slowey, who spent the spring in Phillies camp, has appeared in the big leagues with the Twins and Marlins. All said, he compiled 662 innings of 4.62 ERA pitching, striking out 6.7 and walking 1.5 batters per nine along the way.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke with Jacob Nix, the righty who saw his deal with the Astros fall through last year as part of the Brady Aiken fallout. Nix explains that he has tried to stay positive, but did not sugarcoat the difficulties he faced. “Last year pretty much sucked,” said Nix. “I was literally in the wrong place and the wrong time. It was a bad situation. The whole year was pretty difficult for myself and for my family.” Houston ultimately offered Nix a $620K bonus after pulling back the $1.5MM deal that had been struck, says Nightengale, but he declined. Nix was set to attend UCLA — even driving out to the campus — but ultimately ended up at the IMG Academy as eligibility issues loomed due to the NCAA’s rules (which are, in my view, remarkably unfair). While winning a grievance against the Astros that “paid him a fraction of his original signing bonus,” Nix says he also pushed his development on the mound and is now a much more complete pitcher entering this year’s draft. The whole piece is well worth a read and comes highly recommended.
- Exhibition baseball is likely heading to Cuba next year, as commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters yesterday, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). The expectation is that clubs chosen by the league will head to the neighboring island during Spring Training.
Late last night, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle followed up on his report that the Astros‘ exact draft pool is unknown because two players after the 10th round received bonuses north of $100K. Per Drellich, 14th-round pick Nick Tanielu and 15th-round pick Connor Goedert each received bonuses of $200K — $100K above slot for each of them. As such, Drellich writes in a separate piece that the team’s final $616,165 offer to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix was virtually every dollar they had available to offer without losing future draft picks.
Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that both right-hander Taijuan Walker and left-hander Tyler Olson have made the team’s Opening Day roster (Twitter link). Walker’s inclusion on the 25-man roster is significant, as with 142 days of service time under his belt, he’ll almost certainly be a Super Two player two offseasons from now. The 25-year-old Olson, on the other hand, was in camp as a non-roster invite and will need to be added to the 40-man roster.
- Freddy Garcia‘s Minor League contract with the Dodgers does contain an opt-out clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, although the exact date of that opt-out remains unknown. Also pertaining to Garcia, Han Lee of Global Sports Integration has passed along Garcia’s Taiwanese stats to MLBTR. The veteran righty pitched to an 11-9 record with a 3.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 and a 1.19 WHIP in 161 innings of work while pitching overseas in 2014.
- Though the D-Backs have named their starting rotation, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that Archie Bradley has been so impressive that the Snakes may have to re-think at the last minute. Bradley fired six shutout innings Wednesday, including 5 2/3 no-hit innings, and after the game, manager Chip Hale told reporters: “We’ve named our five, but he’s pushed the envelope all the way down to the last possible chance he had. He’s looked great. We’ll have to sit down and evaluate everything.” Bradley could also begin his first full season in the Majors in a bullpen role, serving as a long man to get acclimated with the big leagues, Hale indicated.
In a revealing piece for Sports Illustrated, Stephanie Apstein spoke with 2014 fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, who was selected by the Astros and agreed to a $1.5MM bonus before having the offer pulled following complications with top pick Brady Aiken‘s physical. As most readers remember, the team reached a verbal agreement with Nix before finalizing Aiken’s deal, and once Aiken’s physical revealed troubles with his UCL, his offer had to be reduced. When Aiken didn’t agree to terms, the money for his slot was lost, and the team could no longer fit Nix’s bonus into its draft pool without incurring maximum future penalties. (Aiken, of course, recently underwent Tommy John surgery.) Nix discussed the waiting at length with Apstein, stating, “I’ve never been that kind of guy. I’ve always been out doing something.” Nix waited two weeks after departing Houston before the team contacted him, and he then waited another week to hear if his signing would come together. He was offered a revised $616K offer about an hour before the deadline, Apstein reports, but Nix passed and has since enrolled at IMG Academy in hopes of boosting his stock. It seems to have worked, as ESPN’s Keith Law noted in February that Nix is already showing first-round potential after adding 25 pounds of muscle and flashing average or better changeups and curveballs at times, complementing his solid velocity. Nix is looking forward to his pro career, though he won’t consent to being re-drafted by the Astros. “I hear nothing but good things about 29 teams,” Nix told Apstein. “I just want to get in and start my career.”
More on Nix, the Astros and the AL West…
- Team officials have indicated to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the Astros‘ currently reported 2015 draft pool and the amount they spent in 2014 aren’t accurate (Twitter links). It seems, Drellich continues, that someone after the 10th round got more than the allotted $100K in last year’s draft. All rounds following the 10th have a $100K slot, and additional spending over that mark counts against a team’s bonus pool. Drellich notes that this makes it impossible to know what the maximum amount Houston could have offered either Aiken or Nix truly was.
- As much or more than any other team, the Mariners receive a huge portion of their value and income from their television arrangements, as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times explains. A close bottom-line focus over recent years did not deliver a winner, but did leave the team in position to ramp up its spending. Now, certainly, Seattle enters the 2015 season with postseason expectations.
- The Mariners could use a modified six-man rotation, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. By slotting in Roenis Elias liberally throughout the year, the club might hope to limit the wear and tear on its five top starters over the course of the regular season.
- That sort of flexibility figures to play an even more prominent role for the Rangers this year, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explains. Texas may not quite reach the level of impermanence it did last year, when it used a league-record 64 players at the big league level, but the club figures to rely heavily on option years to shuttle players back and forth between the bigs and the upper minors.
Speaking at the SABR Analytics Conference, Jim Callis of Baseball opined that an international draft would be included in the next CBA (tweet via Matt Eddy of BA). Callis expects the union to concede the issue in exchange for something else. Historically, the union has traded the rights of amateurs in exchange for veteran benefits, so a move like this is not unexpected. The current CBA expires December 1, 2016.
- Right-handed Cuban hurler Yadier Alvarez will hold his next open workout on April 8th in the Dominican Republic, tweets Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com. The 18-year-old is currently restricted from signing until at least July 2nd due to MLB registration rules. Presently, Alvarez is trying secure an exemption from commissioner Rob Manfried so he may sign sooner. Several teams including the Yankees, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Angels will be ineligible to sign Alvarez in the next international spending period.
- The Red Sox first stumbled upon Yoan Moncada in 2010, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe in the first of a three-part series. Speier describes the early scouting process used by the Red Sox as they tracked Moncada. It began with a 16-and-under showcase where Moncada appeared as just another line in a spreadsheet. Even then, his tools and physicality drew remarks. Boston’s best looks came in an 18-and-under tournament in Taiwan featuring names like Brady Aiken, Justus Sheffield, and Jacob Nix.
- The Angels got their first looks at Roberto Baldoquin during a Yasmany Tomas showcase, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. Baldoquin showcased with Tomas due to personal connections. The Angels decided to take a shot on what they perceived to be a strong work ethic and fierce mentality. Said GM Jerry Dipoto, “I love the look in his eye, the way he interacts with people…he was a leader. He’ll likely be the youngest player on his team this year, but he will be one of the most mature.” The 20-year-old shortstop signed for $8MM in January. Dipoto expects to see him in Los Angeles this season.
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark addressed a host of interesting topics in an interview with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich published two separate articles, both are worth a full read: one focusing on draft-related issues and the other on various recent contractual matters at the major league level.
Generally, Clark had positive words for Houston, crediting the team with a “tremendous stable of young talent,” which, along with some recent veteran signings, “suggests that there’s a plan in place and a light at the end of this rainbow.” He noted that the team’s relatively new ownership and management group is “continuing to acclimate.”
Here are some more key takeaways:
- We’ll turn first to the well-publicized matter of the Astros failing to sign recent draftees Jacob Nix and Brady Aiken. Drellich reports that the settlement between the club Nix, which avoided a grievance proceeding, was actually for a value in the six-figure range, not the full $1.5MM he had originally agreed upon for a bonus (as had previously been reported). Aiken, meanwhile, has not taken any formal action — either through the grievance proceeding or otherwise. Clark says that the “entire situation was unfortunate,” but declined to criticize the club for manipulating the draft prrocess (as he had previously charged) and indicated that the focus was on ensuring that the players “land on their feet with an opportunity to get drafted again this year.”
- Drellich explains that the settlement avoided a potentially tricky jurisdictional issue in the grievance matter. Even as the team (if not also the league) bore risk of an adverse judgment from an arbitrator, Nix himself could have won a hollow victory by having the better of the substantive argument but not receiving any actual monetary relief. This is because the draft is a subject of collective bargaining, but non-40-man players like Nix are not members of the union. Clark did not tip his hand on the union’s view regarding possible changes to the draft, but did say he has “a feeling it’ll be a topic of discussion when we sit down in ’16.”
- Last year, the Astros (among other teams) came under scrutiny regarding service time considerations, in their case involving two of the team’s best prospects. Outfielder George Springer turned down an extension offer and started the season in the minors. Per the report, “steps that could have eventually led to a grievance hearing were taken on his behalf,” though that process was halted when Springer was ultimately promoted. Because he missed the first couple weeks of the season, Springer will be controlled for an additional season, though he is lined up to qualify for another arbitration year as a Super Two.
- Meanwhile, first baseman Jon Singleton ultimately accepted a $10MM extension and was simultaneously promoted to the big leagues. That deal — the first of its kind — created quite a stir, though as I explained at the time there were certainly good reasons for the youngster to reach agreement. Clark’s comments were fascinating on this point, given the controversy surround the contract. “We are supportive of every opportunity a player has to sign a contract,” Clark said. “All we ever ask is that the player is as educated as he can be on all the different moving pieces that may enter that conversation. But no, we think it’s great, and we also think it’s a testament to how well the industry is doing that clubs are being willing more and more to make those commitments to guys who are younger and younger.” (If you’re interested in the subject, Singleton’s agent, Matt Sosnick, explained the deal from his perspective in a recent MLBTR Podcast episode, at the 10:33 mark.)
Toronto will host the Pan American Games this summer from July 11 to July 19, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Team USA could field a potent roster headlined by Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, Corey Seager, and others. To be eligible, players cannot be on a 40-man roster. They also need permission from their parent club to participate. Each team is different, but some will probably allow their top prospects to attend. Rangers prospect Joey Gallo could be among the players asked to participate, and GM Jon Daniels likes the idea of his players competing internationally. One wrinkle to watch: the Futures Game takes place on July 12.
Here are more prospect notes from around the league:
- Pitcher Jacob Nix could be a late first round pick in the upcoming Rule 4 draft, reports Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider required). You may recall Nix’s part in Houston’s Brady Aiken fiasco – he was the player who lost a $1.5MM bonus when Aiken failed to sign. Without Aiken’s expected under slot signing bonus, the club didn’t have the funds to honor Nix’s deal without losing 2015 draft picks and money. Nix is now pitching with IMG Academy, a post-graduate team in Bradenton, Florida.
- Of the prospects in Mets camp, Rafael Montero is the most likely to make the major league roster, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The club has plenty of starting pitchers, but they could use Montero out of the bullpen. Others like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will look to make a strong impression while at the big league camp. Remember, an opening day assignment to the majors can affect when a player reaches arbitration or free agency.
- Due to depth at the major league level, the Red Sox aren’t expected to add a prospect to their opening day roster. However, hard throwing righty Matt Barnes could be among the first called up, writes Ian Browne of MLB.com. Barnes pitched a few innings out of the bullpen last season, so he’s already on the 40-man roster. Another prospect with brief major league experience, Garin Cecchini, will work on improving his defensive versatility.
- The Twins will welcome number one prospect Buxton to their major league camp for the second time, writes Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. However, it’s 29th ranked prospect Alex Meyer who has the best chance to break camp with the club. The giant righty will compete for a spot in the rotation, although he’ll face competition from Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Tim Stauffer, and Trevor May.
TUESDAY: Nix was awarded the full $1.5MM that he had agreed to with the Astros, Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports (on Twitter).
MONDAY: The Astros have agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement with former fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. The sides had been headed toward a grievance proceeding brought by the MLBPA on Nix’s behalf.
Nix had reportedly agreed to a $1.5MM bonus to forego a commitment to UCLA. But that deal fell apart after Houston failed to reach agreement with first overall pick Brady Aiken. Without Aiken’s slot money available to cover the Nix overage, the Astros would have exceeded their bonus allotment and forfeited two future first-round draft picks had they gone through with the Nix signing.
The terms of the deal were not announced, but Houston will not have to face the possibility of an arbitrator ruling that they must sign Nix or otherwise sacrifice picks. Whether there remains any potential league action in that regard remains unreported.
As for Nix, the talented righty is said to be eyeing a one-year stint at a junior college. That would allow him to re-enter the draft next year and steer clear of the possibility of having to deal with NCAA eligibility issues relating to the public nature of his ordeal. So far as has been reported publicly, Aiken has not pursued a grievance action of his own; of course, his situation — the team was said to have been concerned with an MRI showing an abnormally small UCL — is somewhat different from that of Nix.