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Astros Strikeout With Aiken

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Some Houston Texans fans were upset that the team’s number one draft pick, Jadeveon Clowney, had to undergo a relatively minor surgery after signing his contract. Astros fans may feel like they have been kicked in their collective sports hernias because the club failed to reach an agreement with Left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken, the number one pick in Major League Baseball’s 2014 Draft.

Houston will receive the number two overall pick in the 2015 Draft as compensation. The Astros also failed to sign a highly regarded fifth round pick, high school pitcher Jacob Nix and the 21st round selection, pitcher Mac Marshall. Both Aiken and Nix signed letters of intent with UCLA. Marshall signed with LSU.

Aiken was reportedly going to sign a contract below the slot value of $7,922,100, but concerns about his pitching elbow forced the offer to change. Aiken’s advisor Casey Close and MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark have both been critical of the Astros handling of the matter in recent days. When the Astros failed to sign Aiken they lost the entire slot value. Had Aiken signed for below the slot, the remainder could have been used to augment signing bonuses to other picks.

National baseball writer Jon Heyman recently used the phrase, “high-stakes game of chicken” to describe the negotiations between the Astros and Aiken. Heyman also stated the draft dispute was ugly, but both sides needed to work it out.

Clearly neither side blinked. Heyman reported today the final offer was $5 million.

If Aiken attends UCLA, he will have to wait another three years before he can be drafted again. The Astros will have to wait another year to reap the harvest of having a high draft pick and a potential impact player or pitcher.

Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted this afternoon, “Hard to overstate repeated failures for HOU. 2013: Appel over Bryant. After designing a lost season in 2013, no No.1 pick in 2014.”

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted, “There is no other way to put it: Without signing Brady Aiken or others, this draft was a complete and unequivocal disaster for the Astros.”

East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman was thought to be a candidate for the first few overall picks but was forced to have Tommy John surgery before the draft. Toronto still selected Hoffman with the ninth overall pick and reportedly gave him the recommended slot bonus of $3.1 million.

Aiken is just the third, number one overall pick to go unsigned. Tim Belcher (1983) and Danny Goodwin (1971) were the others.

When asked to name pitchers he has been compared with, Aiken mentioned the names David Price and Clayton Kershaw to the Houston Chronicle in June. If the young left-hander is correct, then the sting of not signing Aiken will linger for many years to come.

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