Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brady Aiken has Tommy John surgery

Unsigned 2014 1-1 pick Brady Aiken wrote today in the Player's Tribune that he had Tommy John surgery yesterday.

Aiken made his 2015 debut for the IMG Academy last week, and left his start after 12 pitches (maybe 14, I can't remember exactly. It wasn't a lot.)

...Over the last nine months, I didn't dwell too much on what happened over the summer...I just put my total focus into preparing for the 2015 Draft. My workouts were the best they had ever been. I was throwing better and harder than I had ever before. And then...I threw a pitch and something felt a little wrong.

As you likely recall, Aiken and the Astros couldn't come to an agreement after the Astros found an irregularity in his post-draft/pre-signing physical and offered Aiken/Casey Close the minimum amount they possibly could and still receive compensation for not signing Aiken. More on that in a minute. As the deadline drew to a close, the Astros tried a last-ditch offer for the amount to which they had previously agreed, and They wouldn't pick up the phone. 

Think about that for a second. The Astros couldn't convince a 17-year old or his family to take $6.5m. 

Aiken actually addresses that:
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...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...

Now your money quote:
The money wasn't the only factor to consider. I wanted to play somewhere I felt comfortable, with a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career. Making sure I had that in place was worth the frustration of not being able to get on with my career sooner.

Alright, I'll stop before I make clicking the link not worth the time. But there are some things to chew on here.

1. Brady Aiken does not regret not taking $6.5m from the Astros (UPDATE: Or $5.1m or whatever). This is hard to fathom for regular people. You likely know I teach high school. Brady Aiken turned down an amount equal to what I will make in 151 years (Adjust based on UPDATE). That, by its very nature, disqualifies me from being "impartial." But everybody's circumstances are different. But it does mean that...

2. Brady Aiken & Posse would rather not take the Astros' millions of dollars than pitch in the Astros' system. Aiken says he wanted to "play somewhere I felt comfortable, with a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career." Simply by not signing with the Astros, the implication is that the Aikens didn't feel like the Astros would lay the groundwork for his "successful and long career." 

3. This is becoming a habit with the Astros. They did the same thing with Ryan Vogelsong, lowering their offer after he took a physical. Vogelsong told KNBR:
Everything that's happened to me this offseason - and one of these days I'll tell you guys all about it, when we're all sitting around having a couple beers 10 years from now when I'm done playing - and you'll go, 'There's no way that happened,' and I'll say, 'Yup,' and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Vogelsong's agent tried to clarify that the Astros didn't give him the willies, but Twice is a pattern. What is said pattern? Physicals are not a rubber stamp. They will come to a verbal agreement and, depending on what the medical stuff shows, have no problem adjusting their financials based on the medical information provided for them. We can make jokes about Brady Aiken's tiny UCL all day long, but the Bidness Side of the Astros - as always - give zero craps about what you think, what The Media thinks, what the MLBPA thinks, and what the player and/or his agent thinks. 

Is this worthwhile? In the short-term, yes. Like speculating on whether or not Carlos Correa would have broken his leg had the Astros promoted him to Corpus earlier, this is a hard concept on which to get a handle, because you're dealing with alternate histories. Would Brady Aiken be 24 hours removed from Tommy John surgery were he already in the Astros' system? Apparently the Astros thought that it was enough of a risk (though, to me, anyone who throws harder than 64mph is a full-body cast waiting to happen) to destroy what little favorable outsider-perception they still enjoyed. But that has always been their M.O., a "screw your opinion, we're here to win some some point" philosophy. Regardless, the Astros didn't give $6-ish million to a player who won't pitch until 2016. 

But that long play, though...that's trickier. If you thought that Base Ball had gotten past its Good Ol' Boy days, you're quite wrong. You can see there is a visceral reaction to the Astros, or at least Jeff Luhnow. Maybe it's the Sports Illustrated 2017 World Series Champs cover. Maybe, though, it's the perception that Luhnow doesn't care about human feelings. You and I kick the coffee table, we fall to the ground and weep. Jeff Luhnow kicks the coffee table and it splinters like a bullet hitting an Ikea bookshelf. You and I need coffee in the morning. Jeff Luhnow needs compressed air and some castor oil. You get my point. 

The problem is that the perception can impact the long-term health of the team to which we have chosen to be loyal (or at least mildly follow while we crack another beer). Casey Close represents some of the biggest names in baseball, and if he is at the point where he won't - or even would rather not - deal with the Astros, that's Not Good. You better believe that if 37-year old Ryan Vogelsong basically says that the Astros gave him the shakyballs, other players are listening. 

Let's say the Astros are ready to step up and spend more than $12m/year on a player (provided his MRI is like looking at Clark Kent's MRI), if the perception is - thanks to the comments made by Casey Close, Brady Aiken, and Ryan Vogelsong just in the last eight months - the Astros give no craps about the overall well-being of a player, that's a Bad Thing. Every time Peter Gammons can think to get his butt cheeks off the keyboard to his phone to tweet something mean about the Astros, players, agents, and media are paying attention. 

There's a very good chance that I'm over-thinking this, in my respite from my self- (and work-) imposed blogging hiatus. Maybe everything is fine. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton will opt-out in 25 minutes because he likes those clean unis and join the Astros. But I'm guessing that it won't happen. Players the Astros will want to sign are going to have some questions about the organization. So the $3m the Astros "saved" by not signing Aiken and the $4m they "saved" by not signing Vogelsong are going to cost more than $7m in the long-run. A lot more. 

Are the Astros validated with the news that a teenager needed Tommy John surgery? If that makes you feel good, then whatever. The Astros guessed correctly that a 17-year old who threw 98mph might need to have major surgery. Congratulations. I, for one, am not going to cheer the fact that it'll be another year and a half before we get to see Brady Aiken pitch, for anybody (it sure as hell isn't going to be for the Astros). To me, the Astros didn't "win" the Brady Aiken news. Nobody did.


Shameless click-bait from July 20, 2014: Be sure to Choose Your Own Rageventure on the Brady Aiken decision.


Anonymous said...

I believe the 11th-hour offer was $5 million (up from $3.1 million), not the original $6.5 million. Also, fuck Peter Gammons and Casey Close (and Buster Olney, for good measure)

Wallee Wright said...

Amen, Anonymous. AC, you're just plain, flat out, wrong on this. Yank you head or your shorts out of your butt and reflect: Aiken and Close would have taken the $6.5MM and been more than happy to wear the Orange - but suddenly were not 'comfortable' playing for the Astros for 'only' $5MM. As for Vogelsong, I suspect his wife was determined to keep the family jewels locked up in San Francisco, so both he and the Astros made the right choices. Get your head back in the game A.C..

Astros County said...

This is fun.

JMay said...

I think it's a straw man argument to say the astros didn't "win," everyone lost. No, they didn't win. It sucks for Aiken more. But there's a lot of in between and someone saying the astros were validated doesn't mean that person is happy Aiken is hurt.
But no one last year ripping on the astros for supposedly seeing it as an opportunity rather than misfortune (or taking advantage rather than hedging risk) worried about extremism then.
Aiken is the big loser. The Astros lost also as they wanted Aiken enough to draft him number one. The biggest losers are the Closes and Gammonses. But, the Astros process was validated, even if by sheer luck. Their concern was warranted.
Yes, it's not about winning this one. It's about how damn wrong the perception of the Astros motivations were.

MoleBoy said...

Why would someone not feel comfortable with a team that identifies a health concern unless it was only about money? My theory is that the Astros knew that if they didn’t sign him, they were going to have to wait another year to draft his replacement. Knowing that it is going to be a lost year no matter what, they may have suggested pre-emptive TJS, and that is what the family, friends, agent, etc. balked at. To me, that would make the most sense. And I could completely understand the concerns within Aiken’s camp about that. As I was saying before, getting a player who has had TJS is not really a big deal. What you don’t want is for them to have it while they are on the service time clock or in the middle of a big contract because the recovery is 1 ½ to 2 years. Then it ends up costing the team a lot of valuable time and/or money. If the Astros had suggested Aiken get TJS as a condition of the signing, he would have already been halfway through recovery. And the Astros are still three months away from knowing who the player who will replace him will be. So it’s not like TJS in and of itself would have set the Astros back any further than they are right now. Aiken, on the other hand, has lost a year and will be very lucky to get even the low end of what the Astros had offered to him in the upcoming draft.

I’m sure there will be many people who will blame this on the Astros reneging on their agreement, but if you can’t make adjustments based on physicals, why take them at all? No matter what really went on behind the scenes, I feel like the Astros absolutely made the right decision.

Anonymous said...

If a teenager can't be "f'n" thrilled about waking up one day with 5 million bucks in his checking account, then he can go screw himself.

I'd play baseball for minimum wage and a weekly supply of beer and sandwiches!