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Jacob Nix Rumors
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.
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.