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Jared Miller Signs With D'Backs (But Let's Mock The Astros)

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The Junior lefty, picked in the 11th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, signs for $150K, BUT HOLY CRAP, HOUSTON LET THE #1 PICK GO UNSIGNED!!!

Jared Miller (side note: do not google image search for his name... the results are quite odd).
Jared Miller (side note: do not google image search for his name... the results are quite odd).

In an entirely expected development, Jared Miller signed with the Diamondbacks early yesterday on the last day of the signing period.  He signed for a reported $150,000, which makes it a clean sweep of Vanderbilt Juniors who were drafted signing with the teams that drafted them, and every one did so for an over-slot deal (which is nice, when you think about it).

...and we salute him for it.

As for the fear that John Norwood's monster post-season would cause a team to sign him as an undrafted free agent, well put that fear to bed.  He'll be back, looking to end next year with another improbable home run in Omaha.

For further fear-soothing, none of our remaining recruiting class will be slogging through the minor leagues (until three years from now).  That means Will Toffey and Jeren Kendall, two late-round picks who few expected to sign, chose to honor their commitment to Vanderbilt, and will come to title town for 3 shots at another championship.

But something else happened yesterday...

As the clock winded down on the signing period, a historic bungled negotiation was in the works.  The Houston Astros, who had agreed to a pre-draft deal with Southern California lefthander Brady Aiken - a pitcher who has drawn comparisons to Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw - got cold feet at a medical report.  Not only were unable to sign Aiken, but as they lost the $7.9 million alottment due to MLB's new draft pool rules, they didn't have the money to sign 5th round UCLA commit RHP Jacob Nix (offered 1.5 million), or 21st round LSU commit Mac Marshall - a Georgia lefty who they offered late first round money to yesterday.

This is, without a doubt, the biggest draft bungle in years.  And here's how it happened.  According to Baseball America's John Manuel:

It’s just the third time in draft history (which began in 1965) that the No. 1 overall pick has not signed. Previous unsigned picks Danny Goodwin (1971) and Tim Belcher (1983) both went on to become first-round picks again and eventually major leaguers.

A lefthander out of San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High, Aiken and the Astros had agreed to the parameters of a $6.5 million signing bonus in June, and Aiken traveled to Houston. But his actual signing never materialized amid media reports that the Astros found an issue with his elbow during a physical examination.

In short, the Astros either didn't do their pre-draft homework (they'd only known for the better part of a year that they'd have the #1 pick in a loaded draft... why would they bother running medical checks on top prospects?), or they developed the oddest case of cold feet in draft history.  The Astros and Aiken's agent had agreed o a $6.5 million signing bonus - $1.4 million below slot - which was enough for them to pass on Carlos Rodon, the consensus #1 pick coming into the season, who fell to #3 due to his contract demands.  Houston, who has had the #1 pick in the past 3 drafts, has pulled this under slot crap before, but not to this level of ineptitude.  In 2012, they chose Carlos Correa, a short stop out of Puerto Rico, over top talents Mark Appel and Byron Buxton, to save money and go after tougher signings later in the draft.  You could argue this worked out well for them then, as Correa's looking like a major league short stop, and Appel didn't sign with the Pirates in '12 and was there for the taking, again at a discount, for Houston the following season.  However, Appel is currently a terrible pitcher (1-5, 10.80 ERA in High A ball).

In theory, their strategy could have worked this year, but in a physical exam, team doctors found out that Brady Aiken had a shorter than average ulnar collateral ligament (the Tommy John elbow snapper).  Though Aiken had never injured himself, nor had he ever experienced pain in his elbow, Houston became scared, and lowered their offer to $5 million, which is a frightening amount of money to turn down, but people (especially people who are agents) tend to get angry when pre-draft agreements go wonky.

The kicker is Aiken's unlikely to be eligible for college baseball, as he won't be able to argue he didn't have an agent negotiating on his behalf (which is a horrible rule, but one that would likely be enforced in this situation).  He's currently looking for ways to sue the Astros and/or find a loophole where he's declared a free agent, but will most likely lose those battles and either sign with a junior college or an independent ball team.  Further, this has to damage Houston's reputation with all of next year's top prospects, and agents will strongly encourage the Astros to look elsewhere when on the clock.