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MLBPA files grievance against Astros in regard to draft pick situation

Jul 24, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

When the Astros failed to agree to terms with No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken earlier this month, many speculated that the next step would be a grievance against the team from the Major League Baseball Player Association. According to two reports this evening, that’s exactly what has happened.

Here’s the link to the original report from Chass.

While the specifics of the grievance aren’t yet known and aren’t required to be made public, you have surely heard the details of the situation by now. The Astros originally agreed to sign Aiken to a $6.5 million bonus, but they later attempted to leverage him into signing an underslot deal due to questions about his elbow. While a bonus of $3,168,840 was thrown around, their final offer reportedly came in at $5 million. Much of the attention has been focused on Aiken’s plight, but the breakdown between the two sides also affected fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, who had a verbal agreement to sign for $1.5 million contingent on the team also signing Aiken. The Astros’ draft pool shrunk without signing Aiken, so they would have faced penalties had they gone ahead with the deal for Nix.

Casey Close was the adviser for both Aiken and Nix during the process and he offered some pretty strong criticism of the Astros in the media. However, it’s unclear whether they did anything to break the rules. The system isn’t the cleanest in the first place and it actually invites this sort of manipulation with the current draft pool set-up. If anything, Nix got screwed the most by this situation and perhaps the MLBPA will be able to make the case that his agreement should be honored. Or nothing will come of it. Either way, it should be interesting to see how it plays out.

  1. rotaryfone - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    Some excellent blogging by Murray Chass on his blog.

    • asimonetti88 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      I must say, he blogged the eff out of this story.

      • nomoreliesfortoday - Jul 25, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        I never knew Clay’s brother could play ball.

  2. paint771 - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Nix got absolutely hosed here, and shame on the Astros for trying to nickel and dime any prospect unlucky enough to fall in their laps. I can’t speak to Aiken’s medical situation, but between him, Springer, Nix, pitcher management in the farm system, and other issues, it sure seems for all the world that management has taken the notion that youth and controllability is the new market efficiency (true) to mean they ought to go the extra mile to try and screw any young and unprotected asset they think they can bully into extensive indentured servitude (false). In a weird way, I’m kind of proud of Aiken for standing his ground and telling them to go F themselves.

    • apkyletexas - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:42 PM

      How did the Astros screw Nix? I don’t think you understand the bonus pool system. The Astros would have gotten massive penalties including loss of future draft picks if they had gone way over the pool to sign Nix.

      If it’s true that Aiken had an elbow issue then he and his agent are the ones who aren’t facing reality here. And the Astros were somewhat wise not to tie up all that money for the next few years in damaged goods. Sounds like Aiken and his agent needed to be a lot more honest with the medical records, even if it caused his client to fall a few spots.

      • Wesley Clark - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:16 PM

        Isn’t it up to the Astros to review the medical records? What records were provided? I am sure that an X-Ray/MRI had to have been given to the Astros.

        Nix, however, did get screwed. He agreed to a contract and passed a physical. The Astros should have honored it. It is entirely possible that both players will be declared free agents. If that is the case it, it will very interesting to see what other teams think of Aiken’s UCL.

      • sfbookreviews - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:17 AM

        Wesley Clark:

        Teams are not given any medical information before the draft. The physicals after the draft (and after reaching tentative agreements) are the only medical records a team has. No, they do not receive x-rays or MRIs. That’s not how it works. This isn’t the NFL.

        As for Nix, once Aiken didn’t sign, the money for his slot disappeared and the team would have lost their next 2 first round picks had they signed him to the agreed upon price. Honoring it under those circumstances would have been insane and irresponsible. Yes he got screwed, but Aiken and the CBA are just as responsible for that screwing as the Astros and the doctor(s) are.

        The way I see it, as long as the team has one doctor who says he felt the physical was a problem, this will result in nothing. It sucks for the two kids, but I don’t see how the team did anything actionable.

      • Wesley Clark - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        Thanks for the clarification. I am really amazed that the teams don’t perform their own physicals prior to the draft (especially for potentially highly drafted pitchers). It just seems like a very poor business practice. Is that not allowed under the current CBA?

  3. paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    So now the MLBPA cares about draftees? Three years after totally screwing them by agreeing to a cap for amateur spending….a cap they won’t agree to for their own salaries….a cap they agreed to that created this situation and that made the signing of every draft pick contingent on the negotiations with and signings of other draft picks….but now they care?

    Guys….to late. You had your chance to care. You are partly responsible for this mess.

    • Damidwesterner - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      I’m not sure they’re really talking about the draftee since they didn’t sign, so they really aren’t MLB players. I think what the union is doing is complaining how the Astros screwed around the process so that the union didn’t get two new members. The two draftees are just the catalyst for the whole thing.

      • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:24 PM

        Well, the union gave away those rights, too. Players are not union members until they are on the 40-man roster. Draftees used to be able to sign MLB contracts that immediately put them on that roster and made them union members. The MLBPA also bargained away that ability. Draftees can no longer sign MLB deals.

        So…no, they wouldn’t have been union members by signing.

      • apkyletexas - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:46 PM

        I don’t see how you look at that as a bad thing. Are you saying the old way of signing draftees was good for baseball? That system was an absolute mockery that was completely controlled by the agents. Without the draft slotting system AND no revenue sharing, I don’t see how small market teams could ever be expected to compete again.

    • clydeserra - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      well, there was a change over in management of the union

      • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:19 PM

        As soon as the new management admits that this all happened because the previous guys bargained away the rights on amateurs for the benefit of union members and try to undo all of those things…I’ll be totally on board.

  4. garylanglais - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    The best argument I believe the MLBPA can make in this grievance is arguing that the Astros represented to Nix that the $1.5m was contingent on him passing a physical which he passed. At that point, they were required to sign the player at the amount stated.

    The real contingency wasn’t him passing a physical but that Aiken signed at a below slot deal allowing the Astros to sign both players without exceeding their team value. However, the MLBPA will argue that contingency wasn’t represented to the player and a team can’t make a deal contingent on that type of situation.

    • thebaseballidiot - Jul 25, 2014 at 4:24 AM

      His agent knew it.

      You know, the same guy who’s filing the complaint to cover his mistake.

      • garylanglais - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Do you mean the “advisor” who is not supposed to be dealing directly with the teams?

        I understand that everyone knew what was going on. But the MLBPA will likely make the argument that the team made the offer contingent on the passing the physical. Once that contingency was satisfied you have a binding agreement. There’s plenty of defenses to that argument and plenty of other seemingly disingenuous motives but that doesn’t mean the argument can’t be made.

        Isn’t the MLBPA bringing the case?

        Also, I wouldn’t go so far as to call Close’s actions a mistake. He was put in between a rock and a hard place. Advocating strongly in favor of one client conflicted with the interests of another client. It’s as basic a conflict of issue situation as there is. It’s likely to cost him Nix as a client so if it makes you feel any better, Close will probably pay for his “mistake.”

  5. nottinghamforest12 - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Good. Hopefully Bo Porter’s dirty laundry will be brought out for all to see during these proceedings. It’s no doubt to anyone familiar with his “living in the past” philosophies that he had a significant hand in this. If it were up to him, he’s previously stated that the reserve clause would still be in place.

  6. paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    Does the MLBPA even have standing to file a grievance?

    The players aren’t union members. If they had signed, they still wouldn’t be union members (the MLBPA also gave away that right of draftees, who can no longer bargain for MLB contracts).

    • dan1111 - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:49 AM

      I think they would have standing to file a grievance about any alleged violation of the collective bargaining agreement, since they are a party to that agreement. Baseball teams agreed with the union to operate the draft in a certain way, and the union has a right to object if they feel this is not being done, even if their players aren’t directly involved.

      In a broader sense, though, I agree that the MLBPA is partially responsible by agreeing to rules that inevitably lead to this sort of thing.

      • paperlions - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:24 AM

        That makes sense….doesn’t make the MLBPA’s actions any better, but it makes sense.

  7. hushbrother - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    I’m not clear as to how the MLBPA has jurisdiction to file a grievance on behalf of an amateur player. Does being drafted by an MLB team constitute one becoming a professional player, and therefore becoming associated with the players’ union?

    I’m not saying what the Astros did was right, just wondering why the MLBPA would get involved. Or why they would care, really. They’ve never shown much inclination in the past to champion the rights of amateur players.

    • clemente2 - Jul 25, 2014 at 2:28 AM

      As noted above, the draft is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The MLBPA has the right to object to conduct in the draft process it believes violates the provisions of the CBA governing the draft. The results may benefit Aiken and Nix, and maybe Marshall, whose case is not discussed here but was also involved, but the union is looking out for the process not the non-members.

      • bkbell3 - Jul 25, 2014 at 3:38 AM

        Someone help me here. A team only has lets say 10mil to sign all their picks and they have to split it up amongst them? So if you give your first pick 8mil you only have 2mil to use for the rest of your picks? Do i have that right?

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:26 AM

        So if you give your first pick 8mil you only have 2mil to use for the rest of your picks? Do i have that right?

        Yes, but there are also slot amounts for each pick, and penalties if you sign a player for an amount significantly over slot. There’s also penalties if you exceed your allotted pool amount (which is why the Astros pulled their offer to Nix once Aiken didn’t sign).

  8. rcali - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    It’s tough to get by on only a $5 mill bonus. How many first rounders ever become more than a paper weight?

    • Wesley Clark - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:11 PM

      Yeah, they make to much for playing a game etc. etc. etc. Blah. Blah. Blah. Aiken has a special skill. Supply meet demand. Why take 5 million when you are worth more than that? Would you take less money than what you were originally offered at a job? Why should he? To further your own point, it is possible that Aiken never does anything and never reaches the majors. Shouldn’t he try and get everything he can now? This whole situation just screams of the Astros being cheap.

      • thebaseballidiot - Jul 25, 2014 at 4:27 AM

        He was offered $5 million and his agent turned it down because his agent wanted $6.5.

        Of which he gets 10%.

        Yet you continue to blame the Astros for following the rules while not blaming the agent for being greedy. Go figure.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:31 AM

        It’s easy to blame the agent for “being greedy” and trying to absolve the Astros when you ignore steps in the timeline. The Astros agreed to a deal for $6.5M contingent on passing a physical. The Astros said Aiken failed, and revised their offer down to just below $3.2M (40% of slot to ensure they got a draft pick next year if Aiken didn’t sign).

        Then Close went public with the negotiations. At the last day, the Astros re-revised their offer up to $5M which wasn’t accepted. We don’t know who made the final decision to not accept, but I doubt it was over greed.

      • byjiminy - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM


        thebaseballidiot – Jul 25, 2014 at 4:27 AM

        He was offered $5 million and his agent turned it down because his agent wanted $6.5.

        Of which he gets 10%.

        Yet you continue to blame the Astros for following the rules while not blaming the agent for being greedy. Go figure.

        You have a contract that defines your salary? Too bad. I’m reducing your salary 23%, take it or leave it.

        What? You’re saying no?

        Boy, are you greedy.

  9. gabrielthursday - Jul 25, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    Well, Jacob Nix may have a good case for breach of contract. A verbal agreement is a contract if it nevertheless encompasses all the formal requirements of a contract: offer, acceptance and consideration. The Nix agreement seems to have done so, and the condition precedent- i.e. the signing of Aiken, was entirely within the power of the Astros. While we may well doubt if the MLBPA has the authority to make this complaint, I have little doubt the Astros are in deep trouble if Nix goes to court to enforce his deal.

    • hk62 - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      Actually Ed Wade (yes that guy) said that verbal agreements carry no weight in MLB draft negotiations and that memorandums of agreement or understanding (actually written documents) are used to make sure that both sides are perfectly clear on what the offer is – without one of those, Nix isn’t going to win. He was screwed because his bonus (way more than $1,000,000 over slot) was tied to Aiken’s and that was crystal clear from the jump. Nix did get screwed and the Astros probably negotiated poorly with Aiken, but you don’t lose/win grievances because you handled the situation poorly, you lose because you didn’t follow the rules.

    • American of African Descent - Jul 25, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Statute of Frauds? How long is the contract?

  10. jm91rs - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    So if I read this right, Nix was drafted, but because Aiken didn’t sign there’s no room for Nix to sign. What happens if this situation occurs and Nix does not have any college eligibility left? If he has no fall back plan is he just screwed? Even if he does have college eligibility left, it seems awfully crappy that he’s forced out of pay-baseball for another year for reasons that have nothing at all to do with him.

    • jm91rs - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      If I’m understanding it correctly, and depending on what options Nix has at this point, my beef would be with MLB, not the Astros. What a screwy system. it really would encourage a guy to come out of college early just so that if something crazy like this happened he wasn’t forced to go play independent ball for pennies for a year.

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