Draft Signing Deadline: More Than Just Aiken

Friday marks the signing deadline for 2014 draft picks, and the industry’s focus will be on the three first-round selections who remain unsigned.

Most of the attention will center on lefthander Brady Aiken, the No. 1 overall selection of the Astros. (More on him later.) The other unsigned first-rounders are No. 15 overall selection Sean Newcomb, a lefthander out of Hartford drafted by the Angels, and No. 18 overall pick righthander Erick Fedde, the Nationals’ pick out of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Erick Fedde

Erick Fedde is one of three unsigned first-round picks. (Photo by Danny Parker)

Newcomb, advised by Legacy Sports Group, is expected to sign, and the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that the two sides were “close.” The slot at No. 15 is $2,475,600, but the players drafted at Nos. 13, 14 and 16 overall all signed above-slot deals. The Padres gave 13th pick Trea Turner $2.9 million; the Giants signed Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede for $2,613,200 at No. 14, and prep righty Touki Toussaint received $2.7 million at No. 16 overall.

Fedde had Tommy John surgery two days before the draft, and his negotiations have bogged down as the Nationals try to sign both him and second-round pick Andrew Suarez, a lefthander out of Miami, the No. 57 overall selection. The bonus allotment for the 57th selection is $957,900. The Nationals are not expected to sign ninth-rounder Austin Byler, a first baseman out of Nevada, who’s playing in the Cape Cod League this summer.

The Giants, like the Nationals, have multiple players in the first 10 rounds who haven’t signed. Media reports indicate second-rounder Aramis Garcia, the Florida International catcher, and Oregon State outfielder Dylan Davis, their third-rounder, have signed, but the Giants have not confirmed either signing. Both are expected to sign for close to slot.

The Giants have not signed a pair of prep righthanders out of Northern California in fourth-rounder Logan Webb and ninth-rounder Stetson Woods, after recently signing Austin Slater, an outfielder out of Stanford. However, the club is expected to sign all three players.

The Marlins also had multiple unsigned players in the top 10 rounds but knocked off one by signing seventh-rounder Anfernee Seymour for a $400,000 bonus. Seymour’s slot at No. 197 was just $205,700. The Marlins still have 10th-round pick Dillon Peters unsigned, and the lefthander out of Texas is expected to sign as well, though scouting director Stan Meek said the Peters deal was not completed as of Thursday morning.

Two players picked in the first 10 rounds, Cardinals third-rounder Trevor Megill and Blue Jays seventh-rounder Zach Zehner, have announced they will not sign and will return to school. Megill is headed back to Loyola Marymount, Zehner to year at Cal Poly.

Most eyes will be on Aiken. He agreed to terms in mid-June with Houston for $6.5 million, but the deal was reported before he passed his physical and never became official. Aiken’s situation has become mired in controversy as the Houston Chronicle reported the team’s physical exam revealed an issue with Aiken’s ulnar collateral ligament, according a team source.

Brady Aiken

Brady Aiken (Photo by Larry Goren)

The holdup with Aiken has held up the signing of Jacob Nix, their fifth-round pick who had agreed to terms on a $1.5 million bonus. If the Astros fail to sign Aiken, they would lose the $7,922,100 allotted for the No. 1 overall pick, and signing Nix for more than $1.2 million above slot would push them over their bonus pool allotment, costing them future draft picks.

The Astros have offered Aiken 40 percent of the allotment, $3,168,840, so if they don’t sign him they would receive a selection in the 2015 draft as compensation. But that’s not seen as a final offer.

The Aiken situation is the first of its kind under the current capped-draft system, so the industry will be watching to see what kind of precedent is set with his case. The Astros are fighting the perception that they took a problem in Aiken’s elbow—but not an injury—to try to reduce his signing bonus and make room for other signings.

The Astros are the only ones, however, with access to their medical reports, and multiple sources Baseball America has spoken to off the record in the industry say they want to give the Astros the benefit of the doubt.

The No. 1 overall pick has went unsigned only in twice in draft history; righthander Tim Belcher (1983) and catcher Danny Goodwin (1971).