In what has become one of, if not the stickiest situation, in the baseball world over the past few weeks, no. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken still has not signed his professional contract with the Houston Astros. The UCLA commit has until 5:00 PM ET today to hammer out a deal with Houston and if a deal does not come to fruition, the possibilities of Aiken’s next step in his career are endless.
Since UCLA also received a commitment from RHP Jacob Nix, who has already signed a professional contract with the Astros as well (5th round, 136th overall), the best they can hope for is that Aiken does not sign a contract with Houston and does not bring the contract dispute to court. Due to the new Collective Bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball, Nix’s agreement with the Astros means nothing if Houston cannot sign Aiken first. Since Nix agreed to to a bonus worth about $1.5 million, the Astros would be more than 15% over their draft bonus poll cap because Aiken’s slot value would be eliminated all together from Houston’s bonus pool and they would forfeit the abilities to spend it on other selections they made in the draft. Going over more than 15% of a team’s allotted bonus pool amount would force the Astros to forfeit their first-round draft picks in the next two drafts.
Again, the best UCLA can hope for is that Aiken does not sign in the next few hours. However, Aiken’s additional amateur or professional options besides attending UCLA seem to outweigh the short term and long-term benefits that the Bruins have to offer. If Aiken attends UCLA, he would not be draft eligible again until the 2017 draft. If Aiken decides he wants to play independent professional baseball or attend junior college, he is able to become draft eligible again in 2015. Given that Aiken could not have been taken any higher in the draft, it makes complete sense for Aiken to reconsider his commitment to the 2013 College World Series champions. The most appealing factor in attending UCLA is the education benefits that a top-tier university like UCLA can provide, especially given the results that were revealed during Aiken’s physical with the Astros following his original agreement to a $6.5 million bonus.
Aiken’s physical showed that he had a smaller-than-normal Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his throwing arm. The UCL has been the object of much concern in Major League Baseball, especially this season, due to the vast array of Tommy John surgeries that have had to be performed this season. Aiken received multiple opinions from other doctors who agreed that Aiken had nothing wrong with the UCL in his left arm. Regardless, the Astros have been very cautious and as a result, they could lose their first overall pick very soon.
We will be sure to keep you updated in the next few hours about Aiken’s contract dispute. Maybe, just maybe, the Bruins could land arguably the best prep arm in the country to bolster their rotation this season and bring the Bruins back to Omaha in 2015.