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Agent Casey Close rips the Astros and Major League Baseball over how they’re handling the Brady Aiken situation

Jul 15, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

Brady Aiken MLB Network

The Astros selected Brady Aiken as the first overall pick in the draft last month. But then he developed some sort of arm issue — maybe — and now the Astros are trying to play hardball with him in order to get him to agree to a lower-than-expected bonus with the signing deadline looming on Friday. Aiken’s agent, Casey Close, is not pleased. Ken Rosenthal relays Aiken’s comments:

“We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules,” Close said.

The Astros and Major League Baseball, however, deny that anything untoward is happening (and Close does not specify what rule, exactly, he believes is being violated). What’s more, there is disagreement on whether or not Aiken is injured. The Astros have said that Aiken’s physical revealed “abnormalities” in his arm. Close says Aiken is perfectly healthy. Probably worth noting that Close does not have a reputation of a bomb-thrower as far as agents go.

Is this a tough-but-acceptable position the Astros are taking, or have they crossed a line? From a distance it’s impossible to tell. Nor is it at all clear if this is pre-signing deadline posturing or evidence of a significant rift that could derail the Aiken-Astros marriage. It’s certainly high-stakes stuff for Aiken and Close, in that if the sense takes hold that Aiken is somehow damaged goods it could affect his value later on down the line if he goes to college and then re-enters the draft.

Stay tuned.

 

  1. Nick Danger - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Kids these days … come in 2nd in American Idol and they expect the whole word to fall at their feet perpetually. Next thing you know he’ll be dabbling in politics.

    • lukedunphysscienceproject - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      That’s funny. Thumbs-downer, lighten up.

      • roccom - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        Take the five million. omg. eighteen and offered five million, how many people make five million in there life. That kind of money to start your life is life changing.

      • davidpom50 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Yeah! Take less money than your skill set is worth because other people who don’t have your skill set could never make that much money! Let the billionaire owner keep more!

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        Take the five million. omg. eighteen and offered five million, how many people make five million in there life. That kind of money to start your life is life changing.

        He wasn’t offered $5M. After the “injury” was discovered, the Astros revised their offer down to $3,168,840. This is the minimum amount they have to offer to ensure they keep a draft pick next year if Aiken doesn’t sign.

        Now that’s a lot of money, but what’s the point of slot recommendations if you can just bend the kid over a barrel whenever you want? The MLBPA should get involved, even though Aiken isn’t apart of the Union yet.

        Also HIPAA concerns are a joke Luhnow. Teams freely give out “protected” medical information all the time.

      • jwbiii - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        With the Uniform Player Contract, players essentially sign their HIPAA rights away. Aiken has not signed a contract, so Luhnow is correct.

  2. bronco58lb - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    This is how the most enlightened organization in baseball operates. Your 2017 World Series champions.

  3. drewsylvania - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    For some reason neither side is discussing what injury it might be.

    • stex52 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      First rumor was the good old-fashioned elbow ligament (See Tommy John). But now everyone has gone all squirrely and secretive and you can’t tell what is going on.

      Not a very attractive sight, though. Something about major corporations in legal wrangles with eighteen year-old kids that just shouts “lose-lose.”

    • jeffbbf - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      Silly to speculate. The kid is not signed to a contract, so the Astros are not going to provide specifics to the public – that would open them up to a defamation problem. The “advisor” knows it’s absolutely fruitless to demand the Astros do so. I would imagine that *something* was discovered – more of an abnormality than an injury, based on the story (an abnormality doesn’t mean injury, but it could mean something bad – see R.A. Dickey). If the Astros found something unusual, why would they pay the entire amount? Seems like stupidity. If nothing unusual was found, then the “advisor” should have a lawsuit filed against the Astros.

  4. stex52 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Who said enlightened? They said statistically oriented. And Sports Illustrated never gets anything right.

    Well, Aiken was supposed to be the high risk choice. It seems to be working out that way. I will be very interested to see what the real story behind this is.

    • proudlycanadian - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      Teams are not permitted to perform a physical on players before the draft. Once a player is drafted, they can perform a physical prior to handing over the big bucks. Nobody is going to sign a player for the maximum slot value if there is a medical concern. As long as the Astro’s offer him a specified amount (as set out in the CBA), they will have the second pick in next year’s draft as compensation if he does not accept their offer.. Last season, the Jays did not sign Phil Bickford (presumably because of a medical issue) and received a first round pick this year in compensation.

  5. emdash01 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    This seems pretty clearly an abuse of the system, especially considering they had a deal in place with another of the same agent’s clients and yanked it back when he wouldn’t agree to give the team a deal on his other client. Hard not to see that as shady.

    Aiken’s leverage is further limited by the fact that the team could report him to the NCAA if they so chose and say they negotiated with his agent, which would cost him some eligibility. After they had a deal, changed their mind and publicly tried to renegotiate, and reneged on a deal to the agent’s other client, I wouldn’t really put it past them.

    • stex52 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      It depends. If it is information that was not available about his health, they always do due-diligence physicals. They had a verbal agreement, not a contract. They may be perfectly in their rights.

      But it is lousy PR.

      As to reporting him to the NCAA, I will have to see that to believe it. That would burn their bridges with way too many agents and prospects. They show no signs yet of being that stupid.

      • emdash01 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        That doesn’t cover reneging on the other deal, though – Rosenthal’s article says “But the Astros, after reaching agreement with Nix, notified his family that the offer would be rescinded because the team first needed to complete Aiken’s deal, Close said.” That seems outside of established rights and practices even if you ignore what happened with Aiken.

      • stex52 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        I guess we will find out. As presented, it doesn’t sound very good to me. The kids weren’t drafted as a package. But as with most news these days, I’m going to wait until we see more of the facts. My rushes to judgment don’t work out very well.

      • hackerjay - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        emdash01, that’s not weird at all because the amount of money that they can spend on a player is affected by how much money they give to the other players they draft. If they drafted Aiken thinking that they could sign him for a million less than his slot, then they could offer that extra million to their #2 pick. However, if they don’t sign Aiken, then they lose that slot money and they wouldn’t be allowed to give that extra million to the #2 guy.

      • davidpom50 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        “That seems outside of established rights and practices even if you ignore what happened with Aiken”

        Is it though? With the new draft rules and the hard draft cap, it’s perfectly reasonable to wait to finalize an agreement with a lower priority player until after you’ve finished the deal with the expensive player. There might be less money to spend than they thought.

        This is not to defend any of the Astros’ moves regarding Aiken. It’s mostly to point out how terrible the new draft rules are.

  6. 4cornersfan - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Could this be a potential crack in the protection from anti-trust laws afforded baseball? If the Astros are allowed to circumvent the rules and Aiken suffers financially, it seems that he might have a case. Given the strange and indefensible ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, and the current climate that requires accountability from just about everyone, the MLB exemption may not survive another lawsuit.

  7. prospero63 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Given all the bad press the Astros have had of late, you’d really think they’d figure out it may just be time to change some of their hardline ways. The only consistency in that organization at this point seems to be that management is consistently being a bunch of a-holes.

  8. icanspeel - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    So if they don’t sign him.. they get the #2 pick in the draft next year? Whose to say maybe they don’t have buyers remorse or are watching someone in next years draft? makes you wonder..

  9. brewcrewfan54 - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Everybody should go read Deadspin.com version of this story. They are more specific as why this appears to be dirty pool by the Lastros.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Link for those interested, and I love IMG’s suggestion:

      http://deadspin.com/the-astros-are-trying-to-dick-draft-picks-out-of-their-1605258309/all

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        Thank you. I would have done it myself but cant remember how. Ha!

    • paperlions - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Actually, that article outlines why the entire draft system is BS, not anything that the Astros are doing specifically. Essentially, the draft pool system has created this situation. Obviously, we know essentially nothing about the relevant details of any alleged injury or injury concern. The Astros options are to take the risk and pay Aiken (and Nix), to try to strong arm Aiken (which is the current story), or to decide not to sign Aiken, get the #2 pick next year and that associated pool money (which will be about $1M less than they get for this year’s #1 pick).

      The current option they appear to be pursuing is the most distasteful, IMO….but the entire scenario (and the fact that it has roped in Nix) was caused by MLB teams as a group trying to reign in draft pick spending….trying to save a few million dollars in a multi-billion dollar industry….and, of course, the fact that the MLBPA sold out the amateurs (international ones and those in the draft) for their own gain in the CBA.

      • stex52 - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        I’m really trying hard not to judge until more comes out. But that is my reading at this point. They are within their rights under the CBA. It just is not very pretty.

        And yeah, we knew they were throwing the amateurs under the bus when they first signed off on the CBA.

      • paperlions - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Agreed. I am trying not to be judgmental….but man is that bad PR….a billion dollar team trying to save a couple of million by screwing an 18 yr old kid over an alleged injury….not saying that is true, but man, the narrative is ugly.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        Yeah I know its more of a draft rules issue but this is the Astros 2nd time coming under scrutiny for their business practices. The other involving a prospect, I think Simgleton is his name. I also know it eventually worked out it said players favor. No its not against the rules but it is still sleazy in my opinion. Its not like I’m against teams saving money when they can, that’s the reason these guys buy teams, but pro sports franchises in this country basically print their own money. Why take a hardline stance over $4 million.

      • paperlions - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        I agree that the move is unsavory….but then, these are the rules and their goal is still to build a winning team. This isn’t any sleazier than MLB players totally screwing future players by agreeing to cap draft and international FA spending while not agreeing to a salary cap for themselves.

        The other stories have mostly been media hawks trying to fan the flames of unrest by painting Houston in a negative light. They have approached building the team and franchise from a different and experimental perspective and essentially decided to lose for a while in order to build up their talent base more quickly. That pissed off a lot of people and they are just looking to take them down. The Astros didn’t do anything differently with Singleton or with Springer than every other team does. The Pirates did the same thing with Marte and Polanco.

        By rule, the Astros have to offer at least a certain amount ($3.x million) to get draft pick compensation next year. If they are offering the minimum necessary, that would indicate that they think the injury is a major concern and don’t want to sign him and they’d rather take next year’s pick. Obviously, they liked the kid prior to the physical or they wouldn’t have taken him.

    • rohlo - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:50 PM

      actually u cant call them the lastros…the rangers are in last place!

  10. The Dangerous Mabry - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    I can’t wait for the inevitable comment from MLB saying that the slotting/bonus pool process is in place to “protect” players like Jacob Nix. Poor kid.

    • jwbiii - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Shouldn’t Nix’s first name be Jacoby? I thought it was a rule that all ballplayers named Nix had to have an extraneous Y in their first name.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Jaycob.

  11. rje49 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    Too bad we, the public, have no idea what has really happened or has been said between the parties involved. But we can still give our opinions.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      That’s our right as Internet Americans.

  12. hk62 - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    The impact to Nix is where Close has some meat that people (MLBPA) will listen to – and Nix and Aiken are pals so the together thing was something that kind of had to happen – there is still time for things to get worked out – Close going public now, 4 days to deadline is an agent move (and he’s a great one).

    The outcome, should the MLBPA decide that they need to open bargaining on this issue will probably lead to two things – one, the pool won’t change but above/below slot levels are likely to get fixed min/max amounts to curtail creativity. At the same time, they will again discount the input of non-members (those waiting to be drafted) by requiring medical information that has never been required up to now (like the NFL combine medical exams) be available pre-draft.

    I totally get that everything that HOU has done is within the rules, its just not real easy to live with as a life time Astros fan.

    Oh and no one knows what HOU has offered at this point to Aiken, they only know the public number, which is the required 40% of slot to insure the #2 pick in 2015 – keeping in mind, this situation is likely to cost them 3 2014 picks, its not like they are staying whole on this, so you know the real offer is north of that 40% one.

  13. jrob23 - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    Don’t sign and enter next season then. Appel’s woes (arm issues?) are certainly playing a big role in this. But if you are the Astros and are willing to pay $3.5 just pay the $5. Imagine getting zilch for back to back #1 picks? That would derail their seemingly decent trajectory towards respectability. I know it’s not as bad as the NBA and NFL…but still…two #1 (I realize Appel might still turn out okay) is a tough pill to swallow

  14. schneidler - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    RA Dickey comes to mind as another first round pick who lost negotiating leverage after “structural abnormalities” were found. Dickey is missing his UCL I believe.

  15. yahmule - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Jim Crane is so tight he squeaks.

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