In odd way, deals for two top Astros draftees may be tied together

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Astros No. 1 overall draft choice Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, a friend who was picked by Houston four rounds later, are two promising high school pitchers from Southern California who have UCLA commitments. And now they have something else in common.

Both pitchers thought they had big deals to join the Astros. But now, that's not a certainty, although most figure they're still more than likely than not to wind up signing.

The two pitchers' deals may be tied together, but maybe not the way you'd assume. While Astros people aren't saying anything, it seems quite possible that Nix's deal may be dependent on Aiken's. In other words, for Nix to get his deal done, he may need Aiken to agree to one first.

Unfortunately for Aiken -- and perhaps Nix -- Aiken's deal for a reported $6.5 million fell into limbo after an issue was said to have been discovered with a left elbow ligament in his pre-signing medical examination done by team doctors, as was reported by

The reason it could potentially be unfortunate for Nix is due to a quirk in the slotting system. Beacuse Aiken had agreed to a $6.5 million deal, as first reported by Jim Callis of, and that figure is $1.4 million below the allotted slot for the No. 1 overall pick, that gave the Astros $1.4 million in extra money to go over the slot later in the draft. And according to Callis again, the sides agreed on a $1.5 million deal for Nix, which was very high for pick No. 136 overall (a fifth-rounder). In fact, it was about $1.13 million over that slot, which worked for Houston because the Astros had that $1.4 million in slot savings from Aiken's deal.

But that was before the irregularity was found during Aiken's exam. It was reported here also that the Astros were looking to discount the Aiken deal, said to be for about a $1.5 million lessening, to $5 million. And if they don't work it out, Nix and Aiken could wind up as teammates at UCLA instead of Houston. (Though again, most folks figure they will work it out.)

The potential problem for Nix is that if Aiken goes unsigned, the Astros lose the entire $7.9 million in allotted slot money to spend, meaning the may not have room in their draft budget anymore for Nix. Nix, like Aiken, thought he was all set for a press conference that never came. He, too, had a physical, but there is no word of any issue with his physical. Nonetheless, he continues to wait.

Sources say that while Nix apparently had an agreement with the Astros, nothing official has been done. Verbal agreements aren't binding.

Upon agreeing, Nix, a right-hander from Los Alamitos, Calif., told, "It's a dream come true. It's pretty crazy they were able to come to an agreement in the fifth round."

Crazy indeed. But what happened a moment later with Aiken's physical is crazier still, or at least more improbable.

Neither Astros people nor Aiken's adviser Casey Close have spoken on Aiken's condition since the report of the ligament issue surface here, which isn't surprising since it involves a medical situation.

Neither Astros GM Jeff Luhnow nor Close could be reached Thursday regarding Nix's situation, though Luhnow has said in the past they hope to get the Aiken deal done.  (That's another thing Nix has in common with Aiken. He is being advised by Close.)

How that may affect things, it's hard to say. It clearly behooves the Astros to get a deal done with Aiken, not only because they saw him as the best player in the draft but also because it may help their situation with Nix. Logically, Close, while he isn't talking about it, would like to see both his clients signed, as well.

There would seem to be some pretty good incentive on the part of everyone involved for the Astros and Aiken to come together (and even those who aren't really involved -- namely, Nix). They have until the July 18 deadline to do so.

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