The MLB Players Association has officially scorned the Houston Astros after last week's draft-pick debacle, in which Houston failed to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, plus fifth-round selection Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall.
The players union has reportedly filed a grievance against the Astros, following up on its promise to explore legal options. Not signing all your draft picks isn't a problem, of course, but the union has alleged that the Astros operated unethically in its failure to sign Aiken and Nix, specifically.
Teams get a set amount of money to sign draft picks. High picks have predetermined values, but if teams can save money on one player, they can use it elsewhere. However, if they go over their draft-pick budget, teams are penalized and lose future draft picks.
In Houston's 2014 scenario, Nix agreed preliminarily to a contract above his slot value, which was OK because Aiken had agreed to a contract below his. But when Aiken and the Astros clashed about his health and an official deal couldn't get done, that meant not only did the Astros not sign Aiken, but they didn't sign Nix either. Had the Astros signed Nix to his agreed-upon deal without signing Aiken, they would have gone over budget.
Some of Houston's woes can be blamed on baseball's complicated (and somewhat confusing) draft pool system, but the union also thinks the Astros were at fault. Murray Chass broke news of the union's grievance against the Astros, writing:
The union filed a grievance against the Astros this week, contending the Astros tried to manipulate the signings of pitcher Brady Aiken, the No. 1 player picked in the June draft, and two players selected in lower rounds, pitchers Jacob Nix and Mac Marshall.
Tony Clark, the head of the union, declined to talk about the issue because a grievance had been filed. Dan Halem, MLB’s chief labor executive, and Jeff Luhnow, the Houston general manager, did not return telephone calls seeking comment ...
However, a person familiar with the dispute said of the Astros’ treatment of the players, “Everything they did reeked of desperation. It didn’t smell right from the start and as he continued to talk about it, it smelled worse.”
Such grievances aren't required to be public, and usually they're settled out of the public eye too. In other words: Don't expect this to play out in daily headlines with dirty details, and frankly, we're all better for that.
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