How can baseball avoid another Brady Aiken situation, in which the Houston Astros failed to sign the player they selected with the first overall pick in the amateur draft?
Agent Scott Boras, who does not represent Aiken, has an idea.
Boras outlined a proposal to FOX Sports on Monday that he said would protect the interests of both the player and club.
His plan includes the following points:
*If a drafted player fails a club physical or the drafting club finds a defect and elects to reduce its original agreed-upon offer, the player can reject the proposal within five days and sign with any club.
*The player would not be a free agent, able to sign for any price. He only could sign for an amount not to exceed whichever figure is greater – his slot value (in Aiken’s case, $7,922,100) or the value agreed by the player and drafting club (in Aiken’s case, $6.5 million).
*If the drafting club had agreed to a below-slot value with the player, the club could apply its projected savings to its current pool.
(In Aikens’ case, the difference was $1,422,100. The Astros could have redirected that money to honor their pre-draft agreement with Jacob Nix. That number then would have been subtracted from their 2015 pool.)
*The bonus the new signing club pays the player would not count against that club’s bonus allotment for that specific draft.
*The drafting club would receive a pick in next year’s draft, just as it does under the current rules.
"The equities of the player and the club are addressed. This removes the concern of bias manipulation and subjective motives with player physicals conducted by team physicians," Boras said. "Clubs are free to evaluate each drafted player based on the opinions of their team physician. However, if the player and club disagree on the results of the club’s medical evaluation and the club attempts to alter the agreement the player can seek employment with other clubs for the same bonus amount.
"Clubs under this rule would have the ability to make firm commitments to all drafted players and players who agree to a bonus will have an opportunity to seek employment with other clubs and remove from the system the potential concerns related to a subjective medical opinion of one club. Further, other drafted players who have reached agreement are not affected by the outcome of another player’s medical evaluation."
OK, but would baseball go for Boras’ plan?
According to a source with the commissioner’s office, probably not.
"In general, we oppose rules that allow players to operate outside the draft structure as free agents," the source said. "Any opportunity to become a free agent creates a massive incentive for the player and the agent to manipulate the system to get to free agency."
Boras responded, “The player has no incentive for manipulation; at most, he ends up with his slot or the original offer. The player wants the deal done with the team he first negotiates with.”
But baseball’s preference, according to the source, would be to institute a system of pre-draft physicals similar to what the NFL does at its annual draft combine in Indianapolis.
Players who attend the combine get complete physicals. The results are distributed to all 32 teams. Players with "red flags" often return to Indianapolis a few months later for a second examination. Those results also are shared with all teams.
A team’s medical staff also can check out a player during his pre-draft visit, or at his school.
“The (union) is willing to discuss any considerations that protect the rights of players as they enter our game and pursue their dream of becoming a major-league ballplayer,” said Tony Clark, head of the players’ union.
The union, however, would consent to pre-draft physicals only if the projected picks received significant protection against teams leaking confidential medical information that might damage the value of a player, sources said.
“Giving clubs more freedom to manipulate a player’s test results is not something we have any interest in,” one source on the players’ side said.