astros logo

The Astros did not sign number one overall pick Brady Aiken. This is a big deal.

90 Comments

The signing deadline for players selected in this year’s Rule 4 draft came and went at 5PM Eastern. And the number one overall pick, Brady Aiken, did not sign with the Houston Astros, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com.

If you aren’t up to speed, the Astros selected Aiken with the first overall pick and the parties agreed to a $6.5 million bonus in early June. But following a physical on June 23, the Astros became concerned about something in his left elbow and subsequently offered Aiken $3,168,840. Aiken’s agent, Casey Close, lashed out at the Astros, saying there was nothing wrong with Aiken and the Astros were trying to play hardball in an effort to manipulate their bonus pool to sign other players. Tony Clark of the MLBPA waded in to the controversy as well, saying on Tuesday that he was “disappointed” in how the Astros were dealing with Aiken.

Moments ago, following Callis’ report, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that “[w]e tried to engage Casey Close three times today … there was no interest.”

The technical fallout: Aiken now has a choice: he can attend UCLA (assuming his dealings with close don’t burn his eligibility), and not be eligible for the draft until 2017. Or, he can play at a junior college or in an independent league and be eligible for the 2015 draft. From the Astros side, since their offer to Aiken was at least 40% of the his slot value (it was exactly that, actually) they will be given the number two overall pick in next year’s draft as compensation in addition to whatever pick they have.

The practical fallout for Aiken: he has to wait a year or maybe three to cash in and when he does it’s unlikely that he’ll do as well as he was set to do this year. And many, depending on how much stock they put in the Astros’ word on Aiken’s health, may consider him damaged goods.

The practical fallout for the Astros, they will be without a top pick. This, a year after their 2013 top pick, Mark Appel, has struggled mightily. More significantly, they may have their reputation among agents and future draft picks substantially damaged. Of course, it’s also the case that we don’t know — and likely can’t know due to confidentiality concerns — what the Astros saw in Aiken’s elbow. If it was legitimately serious, well, maybe they’re just being prudent. At the same time, Casey Close is not a bomb-thrower, and his reaction to all of this was pretty sharp. That he is as angry with the team as he has been suggests some seriously toxic dealings between the parties that many may read in his favor and negatively toward the Astros.

Ultimately, though, this blew up and there will likely be some heavy consequences for both sides. All over a tad north of $3 million, which is less than the Houston Astros are paying Jose Veras this year.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 7.43.02 PM
Rich Pilling/Getty Images North America
Leave a comment

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 7.00.22 PM
Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America
Leave a comment

As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 6.22.24 PM
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America
4 Comments

Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

orioles logo
6 Comments

Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.