The Astros failure to sign Brady Aiken puts a dampener on their rebuilding process and makes the organization look even worse.
The MLB Draft is a way for some teams to address an area of need in their farm systems, as they will select certain players that can turn a weakness into a strength.
There are other teams that will use the draft as a way to build their roster. These clubs have a very small payroll and don’t have the ability to spend money on top-tier free agents. The process begins with drafting the player and the next step is signing the player to a contract.
There are some instances, where players will sign a couple of days after being drafted. There are other times in which players won’t sign until the actual day of the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks.
The Houston Astros are definitely one team that uses the draft to shape their roster. They have a good farm system with talented players across various minor league levels. They had the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and selected left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken.
Aiken was expected to be a huge part of the team going forward provided that Houston could actually sign him. The deadline to sign draft picks came and went on Friday and the Astros were unable to reach an agreement with the top overall pick.
This is just the third time in MLB draft history that the No. 1 pick didn’t sign with the team that selected him. The last No. 1 pick not to sign was Tim Belcher in 1983 (Minnesota Twins), and before that it was Danny Goodwin (Chicago White Sox) in 1971.
The main issue in the negotiations was a problem with his physical and the amount that Houston wanted to sign him for. The Astros and Aiken had come to terms on a $6.5 million contract very soon after the draft was finished. However, Houston saw something in his physical they didn’t like, specifically a problem with his elbow that made them reconsider the original deal.
There was a point where the Astros’ offer was reportedly $3.16 million–way below what the two parties had initially agreed upon. According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, the Astros increased their final offer to $5 million.
The failure to come to terms with Aiken also had an impact on two other players that Houston drafted, as those deals were directly related to finalizing Aiken’s contract. The two players that didn’t sign were fifth-round selection Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall. Houston did plan on signing all three players and stay within their league-determined budget to sign draft picks of $13,362,000.
The way that everything unfolded for Houston is bad in every sense, as they were unable to sign a player that was a crucial part in the rebuilding process. It also makes them look bad, in terms of public perception.
The one thing you have to wonder is that if Houston was willing to offer Aiken $5 million, then why not give him the extra $1.5 million to complete the deal. I understand they were concerned about his elbow, and that it could lead to Tommy John surgery in the future, but that seems like a risk worth taking.
Where do Aiken and the Astros go from here with the deal falling apart?
Aiken has two options available. He can attend UCLA and be eligible for the MLB draft again in three years. The other option for him to get back in the draft pool quicker is by playing at a junior college or an independent league and be eligible for the draft next season.
The Astros will get the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft due to not signing Aiken. They could also get another high pick depending on where they finish in the standings once this season is over.
If Houston ends up with the worst record in baseball this season, they would have the first two picks in next year’s draft.
Houston has to make sure they have a better draft next season, because their No. 1 pick from the 2013 draft in right-handed pitcher Mark Appel is struggling. He has a 10.80 ERA in 11 starts through 38.1 innings pitched for High Class A Lancaster.
The Astros had the top overall pick from the 2012 draft and selected shortstop Carlos Correa, but his season is over due to a fractured fibula. Correa in 62 games for Lancaster had a .325 average and .926 OPS in 249 at-bats with 28 extra-base hits and 57 RBI.
Houston could be in for a long rebuilding process, due to the Aiken fiasco. The only silver lining is having one high draft pick, and quite possibly one more in next year’s draft. It looks bad right now for the Astros, but that could all change by 2015.