Outgoing commissioner Bud Selig admitted Tuesday that he has not yet closed the books on the 2014 draft.
Selig was in San Diego on Tuesday for the dedication of Selig Hall of Fame Plaza at Petco Park when ABC 10′s Jennifer Jenson pressed him on local product Brady Aiken. The lefthander out of San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High was the No. 1 overall pick in June by the Astros but failed to sign by the July 18 deadline, due mostly to a disagreement between Aiken’s camp and the Astros over the condition of the pitcher’s elbow.
When Jenson asked the commissioner if Aiken’s negotiations were allowed to continue past the July 18 deadline, the commissioner replied, “We’re working on that right now. There are a lot of things in movement there, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment. But I would say we are working toward a hopeful solution.”
Pressed to confirm whether Aiken and the Astros would be allowed to negotiate on a contract even though the July 18 signing deadline had passed, Selig replied, “I’d rather not get into any detail right now, but I want to repeat, we are working towards a solution.”
Selig also confirmed that Aiken has not filed a grievance in the case, answering a question about whether or not a grievance had been filed by saying, “Not yet. No, and hopefully there won’t be.”
Aiken is represented by Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close. Close did not immediately reply to an interview request; nor did Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow.
It’s not clear what the pretext would be for negotiations to continue beyond the July 18 deadline. Multiple reports indicate the Astros found an abnormality in Aiken’s elbow that prompted them to drop their signing bonus offer from the $6.5 million the sides had agreed to before Aiken’s physical to 40 percent of the bonus slot recommendation, $3.17 million. While the Astros’ offer came up to $5 million close to the deadline, according to multiple reports, the two sides failed to come to an agreement.
There’s little precedent for extending the signing deadline by more than a month, even when the teams don’t agree on the health of the player. When Barret Loux was drafted sixth overall in 2010 by the Diamondbacks and his $2 million deal collapsed when he failed a physical, he was made a free agent by the commissioner’s office. But Loux was a college junior with little recourse; the NCAA would have declared him ineligible for negotiating with a team. (Loux wound up having Tommy John surgery in May 2014.)
Commissioner Selig has extended negotiations past the signing deadline before in 2008 when the Pirates (and Royals) signed their top picks, Pedro Alvarez and Eric Hosmer, past the midnight deadline that August. The players’ union at that time filed a grievance arguing that MLB had unilaterally extended the signing deadline, but the San Diego Union-Tribune, citing unnamed industry sources, reported that the 29 other teams had signed off, allowing the Astros and Aiken to continue negotiating.
The Astros are the subject of a grievance that has been filed by unsigned fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, who had agreed to terms on a $1.5 million signing bonus but wasn’t signed. Once the Astros’ deal with Aiken fell though, they didn’t have the bonus pool money available to go so far over slot to sign Nix, making his signing contingent on Aiken signing for $6.5 million or less.
Neither Aiken nor Nix (also represented by Excel) has announced plans for the 2014-2015 academic year, whether making good on their UCLA commitments or attending junior college, or perhaps playing independent ball. Coaches at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC have denied a persistent Internet rumor that Aiken would attend their school.