Five months after having a $2 million offer abruptly pulled by the Arizona Diamondbacks because of health concerns, right-handed pitcher Barret Loux agreed to terms with the Texas Rangers for $312,000.
"I'm just excited to get to play baseball, what I'm been waiting 21 years to do, getting paid to play," Loux said.
Loux struck a pre-draft deal for $2 million with the Diamondbacks, who picked him No. 6 overall. However, a medical exam revealed a tear in his labrum and problems in his elbow severe enough that a doctor concluded he might eventually need ligament-replacement surgery. The Diamondbacks broke off negotiations and, in an extraordinary development, MLB ruled that Loux could become a free agent.
Five months later, Loux’s agent, Tom Little, came to an agreement with the Rangers.
"They were a little preoccupied with the postseason, really they came in later, went up there Monday and just talked with them, and had already met with their doctor over the summer,” Loux said. “They were great."
When Loux's junior season at Texas A&M finished days after the draft, he traveled to Phoenix with hopes that a medical examination would quickly be followed by a press conference announcing his signing and an introduction to fans at Chase Field hoping to get a glimpse of the team’s top pick.
That introduction never happened. The Diamondbacks, following the medical evaluation, viewed Loux as damaged goods and didn’t even invite him into a luxury box during the game he attended. The team stopped communicating with Loux and his family, and the debacle might have contributed to general manager Josh Byrnes getting fired last July. Scouting director Tom Allison also has been replaced.
Other teams have whittled offers to drafted pitchers discovered to have previously unknown medical issues, but Loux is one of the first to be completely ignored. In 1996, the Rangers chose R.A. Dickey(notes) 18th overall, only to find he wasn't born with an ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. They dropped their bonus offer from $810,000 to $75,000. Billy Traber(notes) lost $1.3 million in 2000 after the New York Mets doctors questioned the structural integrity of his elbow, and the San Diego Padres dropped Tim Stauffer's(notes) bonus from $2.6 million to $750,000.
Arizona, though, had zero interest in going down that path, leading some to believe they were taking unfair advantage of a recently enacted compensatory rule, which states that if a team fails to sign its first-round pick, it gets another first-rounder in the same spot the following year. MLB and the players’ union will revisit the rule during collective bargaining next year.
In the Diamondbacks’ case, they now will have the seventh pick in the 2011 draft because they didn’t sign Loux. They also will have the third pick because they had the third-worst record in baseball in 2010. So, in a draft that will be loaded with premier arms such as UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray, Texas' Taylor Jungmann, Virginia's Danny Hultzen, TCU's Matt Purke and Connecticut's Matt Barnes, the Diamondbacks have a chance to strike gold twice in the first round.
The blatant unfairness of Loux’s position prompted MLB to grant him free agency. Otherwise he would have had to play in an independent minor league or try to return to Texas A&M for his senior year.
"I really liked the fact the Rangers worked so well with pitcher Tanner Scheppers in their organization, who kind of went through what I'm going through right now," he said. "I'm ready to get things going with the Rangers."
Yahoo! Sports baseball columnist Jeff Passan contributed to this story.