Astros and Nix, a top draftee whose deal was canceled, reach settlement

The Astros and unsigned draftee Jacob Nix have quietly and confidentially come to a monetary settlement over the team's decision to nix an agreed-upon $1.5-million deal that was negotiated but never signed, following last June's first-year player draft.

By all accounts, Nix and the Astros had an agreement, but in a very unusual case, the Astros decided they couldn't sign the deal with Nix after they failed to sign their No. 1 overall pick, left-hander Brady Aiken. Since the Astros failed to sign Aiken, they no longer had the slot money to sign Nix -- a top right-handed high school pitcher out of the Long Beach, Calif., area.

Under MLB's rules, signing Nix after failing to sign Aiken to Aiken's under-slot deal would have required the Astros to forfeit future top draft choices. So instead, Houston chose to pass on the deal for Nix, a talented fifth-round selection afforded an unusually high bonus designed to get him to pass on a UCLA scholarship.

The financial settlement between the Astros and Nix -- the amount of which isn't known -- was agreed to after the players union, on behalf of Nix and agent Casey Close, filed a grievance citing the unfairness of Nix losing his deal over something that allegedly came up in Aiken's physical. The monetary payout helps the Astros avoid forfeiting the picks, which was a possibility had an arbitrator ruled against them and ordered them to sign Nix. It isn't known whether Nix preferred to pitch for them, anyway, by this point.

Nix traveled to Houston under the understandable belief that he had a deal if he passed his own physical, which he did, and had no expectation that his deal could fall through depending on Aiken's physical. The Astros reportedly cited what they said was an irregularity in Aiken's pitching elbow, and though Aiken's people and the union disputed the finding, and nothing ever was in evidence in his superb pitching record, the team took back its original $6.5 million offer to Aiken. 

The Astros tried to resurrect their deal with Aiken near the signing deadline, eventually offering $5 million, which was still short of the original $6.5 million agreement with the high school left-hander out of the San Diego area. When Aiken didn't taken the amended offer, the Astros decided not to stick with their deal with Nix, who happened to be a good friend of Aiken and was represented by the same agency.

Both players had scholarship offers to UCLA, and their eligibility is up to the NCAA. But considering both had negotiated deals and traveled to Houston for physicals and presumably press conferences (though there never was a press conference for either, obviously, when the deals fell through), their eligibility is up for debate. It is believed now that both top prospects will pitch at junior colleges instead.

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