Houston Astros Sticking It to Brady Aiken

The Houston Astros have reportedly again dropped the amount of the signing bonus they are offering No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken.  As you may remember, the Astros initially reached a deal with Aiken for a reported $6.5 million signing bonus, less than the slot amount by about $1.4 million, but still a whole lot of money.

Then, Aiken underwent an MRI at the team’s insistence which created concerns about the health of Aiken’s elbow ligament.  The Astros’ offer than dropped to an even $5 million.

Today that reduced offer was reduced yet again, this time down to $3.16884 million, the minimum amount the Astros are allowed to offer Aiken and still receive the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft if Aiken refuses to sign.  Further, the Astros aren’t just sticking it to Aiken with their regressive bargaining tactics, they’re also sticking it to 5th round pick Jacob Nix. The Astros and Nix had reached agreement on a well over slot $1.5 million, which has now been withdrawn because the Astros can’t be sure they got the slot savings they would have received if they had signed Aiken for $6.5 million.

Meanwhile, the problem with Aiken’s ulnar collateral is apparently not a ligament tear.  Instead, it is that Aiken has an abnormally small ulnar collateral ligament.  In other words, Aiken isn’t hurt, it’s just the Astros are afraid he will get hurt in the future.

To me, it sounds like the Astros simply found a way to try to shaft Aiken on the signing bonus.  Maybe a procedure needs to be adopted to have amateur players examined before the draft at MLB’s expense, so we don’t get this kind of after-draft nonsense.

I’m kind of hoping the Astros lose both Aiken and Nix.  However, almost $3.17 million is still an awful lot to walk away from, particularly if it turns out the team was wrong, and Aiken can stick it to them in arbitration for three years and then leave as a free agent for a firm offer than won’t be reduced multiple times at the last minute.

Another possibility is to include an escalator clause that if Aiken doesn’t get hurt in the next three or four years, he gets the missing $3.3 million as a second bonus as soon as he completes his third or fourth healthy season.  That may not pass muster with union or MLB rules, however.

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