Astros, Aiken, Nix: The No-Win Scenario

What are you going to do when you spot the Kobayashi Maru in the Neutral Zone?

Here’s a hint: This ain’t working out for you.

You fly into the Neutral Zone to save those civilians on that spaceship, you’re going to die saving them. If you don’t fly into the Neutral Zone, you’ve condemned those people to death at the hands of the Klingons.

You’re damned if you do. You’re damned if you don’t. And damned if this doesn’t bring me to the Brady Aiken debacle. This was a no-win scenario right in line with the Kobayashi Maru.

Setting The Scene
As the high school-college baseball seasons progressed Carlos Rodon’s stock dropped and Brady Aiken’s rose. Everyone said so. I’m not the expert, but the folks who are were high on Aiken. The Astros picked him. He came in for a physical … Kobayashi Maru.

So, I haven’t seen the medical reports or talked to the doctors, and neither have you. We’ll have to take the rumour and conjecture as fact.

The fact is, the Astros didn’t like Aiken’s ulnar collateral ligament. It’s too small. If it goes bad, it won’t repair right. Damn it, Chip, I’m a blogger not a doctor!

If the Astros spent $6.5 million on a bum elbow, that’s no win. If the Astros don’t sign him, they lose their 1-1 and another top pick. That’s another no-win situation.

Once Brady Aiken took that physical, the Astros had a no-win scenario. And guess what? They didn’t win.

But neither did Brady Aiken. His “advisor” Casey Close, he lost. Jacob Nix, loser. Jeff Luhnow and his front office, losers.

The Biggest Loser
OK, so I switched TV-Movie metaphors. But if you look at the players in this Shakespearean tragedy, everyone loses. It’s very Romeo and Juliet (they all die in the end) and very Hamlet (tragedy everywhere).

So let’s look at the players in this race and see who is the biggest loser, and who had the most blame in this mess.

Jacob Nix
This is an easy one. Nix lost $1.5 million, and he basically had no fault in this. His deal was contingent on Aiken signing. Aiken didn’t, and it took the money off the table for Nix. Bet they aren’t best friends anymore.

Brady Aiken and His Family
This is an 18-year-old kid, and I hate to put any blame on him. Allegedly, he’s got an elbow that’s begging to fail. But he handled this wrong. He had a soft offer for $6.5 million. He got a $3.1 million offer just so the Astros covered their bases. Then he got an offer for $5 million. And he’s got none of it. Worse, he’ll never get that kind of offer again. Why? Because every offer he gets will come with a physical. And I’m betting most teams will likely come to the same conclusion as the Astros.

Jeff Luhnow didn’t make this decision in a vacuum. He talked to doctors. He talked to experts. He ran it up the flagpole to Crane. And I’m sure they did a major risk analysis that told them, no. Not at $6.5 million.

By not signing, he screwed himself and his buddy Nix. But if he’d have just taken $5 million — a lot of money for an 18-year-old kid — then he’d be rich, have his guaranteed money no matter what happens to his elbow, and have his friend back.

Casey Close
Both Aiken and Nix are his “clients.” Say his advice was worth 10 percent. Then he missed $650,000 on Aiken and $150,000 on Nix. When was the last time you spent a year and a half or so advising some kids and their families only to get stiffed?

He gave his client, Aiken, horrible advice. I could understand being insulted by the 40 percent offer at $3.1 million, but the $5 million deal should have been signed. The ONLY way Aiken tops that is to be declared a free agent by MLB (unlikely) then get a huge offer after taking a physical (more unlikely). And if Aiken hurts his elbow before signing a deal, Close looks like the fool who told his client to play chicken with the Astros only to see him lose.

Jeff Luhnow and the Astros
Well, the old ball club is getting a lot of negative press. That’s bad, but by next May all anyone will talk about is how they have two top-five picks and a huge bonus pool.

They lost Aiken, but if they are right about his elbow, I don’t think they care. Besides, we’re talking about a draft pick in a sport where kids get selected high and, at best, are seen in two or three years.

And all this talk about how this will have a chilling effect on them signing free agents is hogwash. Do you really think some seven-year MLB veteran cares if the Astros didn’t sign a draft pick? If it’s me, all I care is if the money is right.

The argument that makes me laugh is the one about how it shows the Astros are penny-pinching tightwads. Really? I’m pretty sure they spent just about all their bonus pool in 2013 and 2012 under this regime. They came to long-term agreements with Altuve and Singleton. Heck, Singleton had never played a day above AAA and they gave him a lot more money than they had to.

So, here are my questions to ponder:

Who lost the most in this deal?

Who was most at fault?

Are the Astros a miserly bunch of bumbling idiots?

Or did they just run across a Kobayashi Maru?

27 comments on “Astros, Aiken, Nix: The No-Win Scenario

  1. I’ve said this already, its not about Aiken, nix, whoever there high schools kids its a crap shoot anyway. The leadership or lack there of handled this so badly. Was it really necessary, no matter you medical concerns, to wait till the last day. cry some bull shit that you called his agent 3 times and they didn’t return your calls, sad but hey with 5 minutes left we made a cover our PR ass with a 5 Mill offer. What are we Buckalew Chevrolet. And when we say 4:01 come along both Jim Crane and Reed Ryan should have had a press conference. with with a well orchestrated message that saves a little professional face. Right now this ownership and and gang are so Bush league and smug Lunhow sucks sorry man. 4th year in a row my beloved Astros not only suck ( except Altuve), soon Singelton with be batting .150.

    UGH 2018


    • I’m pretty sure the Astros had made overtures before the last day, but someone in Aiken’s camp had their feelings hurt by a $5 million offer — which I had heard about more than a week before the deadline.

      If you want to say, “Pay him $6.5 mil no matter what you think about his elbow,” then that’s a case I’d like to hear you make. But with Luhnow bound by HIPPA and his own rules of not discussing ongoing negotiations, I doubt we are hearing the whole story from Aiken, Close and their media shills (Heyman, et al).


      • I’ts a he said she said ,maybe they did maybe they didn’t Still n the end a piss poor job of management and leadership , You can spin it any way you want. I have owned my own Executive Search Firm for 13 years..Its just was lame way of handling Professional Business, in any business model.


  2. Awesome line up for todays game. How much longer is Fowler out with that hang nail.? Living in Rockies land ,you know that’s why the Rockies were glad to unload him, they loved him when he could play , but many questions about his lack of toughness-guts.


  3. Buster Olney a guy I respect in Baseball reporting, is reporting that The Astros have a major perception problem from the way Springer and Aiken situations were handled and everyone’s feeling that we tanked in the last have of 2013. I think a lot of baseball is listening. OK I’m done, moving on.


  4. Well , I’m a Star Trek fan but they never lost, so I just can’t relate. Shoot, even when we launched Spock out there on his last voyage, he was right back with us the next go round.
    I agree with the article except the final chapter. The biggest loser is us. Me, you, and the rest of the heart and soul of the Astros. The great Astros players and fans from all the past years. We lose because this is a mockery of everything we built in the past that this regime and it’s stupid plan have put in the shredder and torn up piece by piece. The arrogance and lack of baseball knowledge of this owner and GM are a spear in the heart of this team and an insult to us for all the years of sweat and tears that the people of the City of Houston and Astros fans everywhere have shed
    We are the losers because we are still here and have to read about this dungheap of a MLB franchise. We can’t watch and we can’t listen, we just read and seathe and hate. And when I look at the shambles Luhnow is making of the prospects, the shambles he is making of the team and the draft and players in this organization, I just want to puke.
    If there is not somebody new running this baseball organization by the end of the year, I’m done. This guy is a joke and I hope his ass gets canned and the sooner the better. In all my years of watching baseball, from Luman Harris to Brad Mills I have never seen such failure as produced by Jeff Luhnow and his group of Dummies. I’ll tell you right now, Brady Aiken’s left UCL is bigger and stronger than Luhnow baseball brain.
    Captain, I wish to put a boot in Luhnow’s wormhole and watch him wanish. Warp factor ten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oldpro, that’s a great point. We, the fans, lost the biggest. And Kevin, I think Luhnow and his people could have handled things better. I’m not sure how because I wasn’t in on the negotiations, but Aiken and Close got their panties in a bunch for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ditto Dtto Ditto watching the bull pen suck, Singleton should have 3 errors, Cossrt looks lost, Altuve looks Great. Crane PLease SELL!!


      • Whoops error Altuve and then for the second straight time Kiki doesnt even come close the cut off man Wow how far we are starting to fall again, Looks like 60 wins could be tough


  5. I agree with you OldPro. The front office handles everything by the numbers and offers that as the excuse for what they did (risk vs reward, etc. per Luhnow). It becomes their cover story and all of the guys more intune with sabremetrics buy it because this is their cup of tea (or Koolaid) My problem is this, the front office seems to be more in love with the process than the result. Building up the farm system, getting players cheaply, massaging the draft picks so that they can use the money to pick up more bodies. On the surface this looks good, and very smart; they game the CBA as another web-site puts it. The problem however, is that our MLB team sucks. We get no awards for the consecutive number of 1-1 selections; we get nothing in Houston for a high farm system ranking. If it doesn’t translate to the MLB, it is just white noise. Luhnow tried to pressure Springer into coming to the bigs early by offering him a very team-friendly contract. Singleton signed the agreement because he needed the money now. Aiken’s family lives on the beach in California and my guess is that money has never been that important to him so when he got treated like a no-other-option pawn with a low ball offer, he said no. It has been reported on two different sites that the original offer was the 40% figure. Luhnow could have offered $5 million at that point, but he waited until there were only 5 minutes left before the $5 mill was on the table. If the kid, who originally agreed to a $6.5 number, which is below the slot, then why try and hammer him at $3.1? Luhnow did it because he felt he had the hammer and the kid had no choice. A poor decision by a GM and if you have choices in life, why work for someone like Luhnow. Smart business doesn’t always relate to the short haul. The Astros look like money-hungry weasels.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Our GM failed to get his number one pick signed. And at the end, as the one sided negotiations feel on deaf ears, it became very possible that the kid no longer wanted to play for this organization. That’s my guess. And fairly, only a guess. But first rounders most always get signed, and like it or not, the failure here is another notch on the Luhnow resume. And Brian, free agents not wanting to play for this club should not be such a far fetched idea. Still today, this organization has not gained a whole lot of credibility in its body of work, but rather suffered embarrassment after embarrassment. I’ve never read so much negative press on one major league club. And I’m not talking about this week. I’m going back to the beginning of the Crane ownership. Chip did a great job recapping everything just last week. And so it goes on. The ink will only get worse in the next week. When does it stop?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The kid loses the most if he does like most if he gets injured or does no light up college kids like he did in HS.
    The Astros lose the most if he does stay healthy and goes onto a big time career. They also lose if this changes how agents and their players look at the team. Close is well thought of – not a Boraspain in the behind.
    Very ironic this comes on the heels of the SI championship cover – SI jinx?


    • Exactly. He’s one game over .500 and the other guy is 18 games under .500. Strictly coincidence, I’m sure. The last time Corp started a game behind the plate was an 8-3 win over the Rangers. Seems like a long time ago.


  8. I agree with you Chip. If Nix doesn’t file a grievence, and I doubt the Astros crossed any lines, then I think Close is the biggest loser (and from what I’ve read, he deserves it). Nonetheless, the Astros got a black eye. I think the last minute 5 million dollar offer was just an effort to salvage their name and reputation. The offer didn’t work and their effort to salvage their name and reputation didn’t work either.
    I don’t blame them for backing away from Aiken because of his questionable ACL and risk of recovery.
    I just hope that there was nothing wrong with the Nix deal so that the Astros are not liable for the +115% bonus pool situation where they would lose the next two year’s top draft picks.


  9. This is a business. PERIOD. If the fans get to watch this team play, that’s extra.
    Luhnow is *all* business, his boss is a wealthy business man. The Astros we once knew and loved are long gone. No longer do we have a warm and fuzzy feeling
    about this team…….and probably will never have that tandem of Biggio, and Bagwell
    to root for. The players are treated like crap, and the manager has lost his “rah rah ree” attitude. We have a club that’s run on statistics, and weird on field shifts. The reason the other writers are pounding Luhnow about Aiken, is the leaks that were made public, about the way he tries to squeeze one more penny outta his draft money. I can’t say I blame Luhnow……….but now the rest of MLB sees what a cold and calculated front office we have. Winning is good, but losing is BETTER. This team did NOT deserve to win today, stupid mistakes and errors don’t usually pan
    out for a win. I’ve said this a couple of times, but young players pay close attention to how this front office does business……
    As for Aiken, he MIGHT get back in the draft someday, but this was a devastating
    blow to his professional career. If he and his agent sue Jim Crane, he deserves EVERY PENNY he get’s.


  10. Why did Luhnow offer more money at the 11th hour? Did he want to make sure that a HS kid got all the money possible? OR was he lowballing all along and thought he could squeeze a kid? From the time of the 40% to the final offer, did Aiken’s arm heal or get better? The selection, and the negotiation is all on the Astros. You can look for “losers” all you want, but the only loser is anyone that has anything to do with the Astros right now. Whether it is Aiken, Nix, Springer, or anyone else. It is a reputation “Earned.” If one wants a good reputation, then act accordingly.


  11. Josh Hader’s line tonight: 5 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, struck out 7. The kid NEEDS to go to Corpus. He’s 9 and 1 in Lancaster. I’m over talking about the Aiken mess……
    we got baseball games to play, and going to Oakland ain’t gonne be easy. By the way, Fowler is NOT going to be in the lineup any time soon, and where in the heck did they bury Guzman?!!


  12. Well, Kirk said himself he never faced the no win situation. Maybe Spock could have used some analogies to fool Close, something like if the thousands were like millions, and the millions like billions……

    Maybe Kirk is available to hire as GM. I don’t think he is the GM type though, he might pawn that off on Spock and run down and take Porter’s job.


  13. How much longer until we start hearing the ‘Nolan Ryan should be GM” discussion?

    I don’t think the Astros were being cheap, but they handled this situation poorly. When they start negoiating with Mac Marshall right after they reduce the offer to Aiken it gives the impression of impropriety. Since Crane took over it has been bad PR after bad PR in everything they do. The Cubs started their rebuild well after the Astros and they look to be much further along in that process. The Cubs were willing to go out and get quality FA’s like Feldman in 2013 and Hammel this year, which allowed them to flip them for quality prospects. Who have the Astros signed? Jose Veras last year, which got us an average prospect in return and Feldman this year, but he is over-paid.


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