Rounding Third: Tough break for Aiken

Philadelphia, PA ( – The Houston Astros caught a lot of
flack last year when they were unable to sign No. 1 overall draft pick Brady
Aiken, the San Diego prep left-hander.

You see, the Astros and Aiken’s advisor, Casey Close, supposedly had a wink-
wink $6.5 million deal in place shortly after the draft that was never

Baseball, though, is not like football. There is no combine. There is no
chance to take a look at a player’s medicals, nor is anyone compelled to take
a physical. Teams are essentially going into that blind.

Once the Astros were able to take a look at Aiken’s arm after the draft, an
issue arose with his ulnar collateral ligament — damage to which, of course,
can lead to Tommy John surgery.

Health privacy laws prevented the Astros from saying exactly what the issue
was, but they did say the exam showed something and they were wary of giving
him the offer originally agreed upon.

It got ugly after that and Aiken turned down the Astros’ final offer of $5
million. So since the Astros were unable to reach an agreement with him, they
now hold the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft as compensation.

Aiken, meanwhile, opted against fulfilling a commitment to UCLA, instead
pitching for IMG Academy in Florida, and to take his chances again in this
year’s draft.

Most experts had him pegged to be No. 1 again.

But those plans took a big hit on Thursday when Aiken revealed, via Derek
Jeter’s Players Tribune website, that he underwent Tommy John surgery and is
now on the road to recovery.

“I’m obviously extremely disappointed,” Aiken said. “I wanted to let my
pitching speak for itself, but now there are going to be new distractions.”

Everyone will now ask Aiken if he regrets his decision. What do you think? Of
course, he says he doesn’t, but I have five million reasons to disagree.

“Since last summer, a lot of people have wondered how I could have turned down
a multi-million-dollar signing bonus after being picked first in the draft,”
Aiken said. “Now, I know they’ll probably be wondering about it again. I can
honestly say I don’t regret not signing. It was a very difficult decision, but
it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know
the truth about.

“My family and I planned for all the possible outcomes. We weighed the pros
and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value
and discussed it over a number of family dinners. This wasn’t a decision we
made lightly.”

Let’s face it: Things got really ugly between Aiken and the Astros. They lost
his trust and he wanted no part of them. Right or wrong, he wasn’t going to go
there for one penny under what they had originally offered.

And it’s hard to blame him. But, then again, it’s also hard to blame them.

Aiken will again head into the draft, albeit probably no longer at the top of
most team’s boards. But it’s not as dire as it used to be.

Teams didn’t seem to shy away from the once-dreaded surgery in last year’s
draft, as East Carolina stud righty Jeff Hoffman had the procedure during the
year and was still chosen No. 9 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

And Washington Nationals righty Lucas Giolito is one of the top prospects in
baseball right now. He sprained his UCL during his senior season of high
school and the Nationals still made him a first-round pick. The difference, I
guess, is they knew they were getting “damaged goods.”

Aiken is only 18. Someone is going to take a chance on him. And let’s face it,
it’s not even taking a chance at this point. Tommy John surgery has become
almost as common as getting your knee scoped.

Hey, at least we now have an interesting storyline for this year’s MLB Draft.