Indians reach deal with Brady Aiken, team's top draft pick
CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians are going to gamble with Brady Aiken.
Cleveland agreed Friday to a minor league contract with the hard-throwing left-hander, who was the No. 1 overall selection in last year's amateur draft by Houston but didn't sign after the Astros became concerned about his elbow.
The mid-market Indians, a franchise that watches its spending carefully, decided to take a risk with Aiken, who had Tommy John surgery in March and won't be able to pitch until next year.
General manager Chris Antonetti said the Indians scouted Aiken before the 2014 draft and did extensive research on the 18-year-old in case he was available this year. And when their turn came in the first round, the Indians didn't hesitate in selecting Aiken with the No. 17 pick.
''Brady is a big strong, durable pitcher we feel has a chance to anchor our rotation in the coming years,'' Antonetti said. ''He's a great person and a tremendous worker. We're excited to have him in our organization.''
The Indians had until July 17 to work out a deal, but the sides were able to reach terms. Aiken is thrilled to have security after a tumultuous year,
''I'm excited to get going,'' he said during a conference call. ''The Indians have put their faith in me to get through this. Over the last year a lot of stuff happened, but that's all behind me now. I'm excited to move forward with the Indians.''
After they chose Aiken last year, the Astros made a $6.5 million offer and then lowered it following a post-draft physical. Aiken, who went 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA at San Diego's Cathedral High School as a senior, enrolled at the IMG Academy in Florida. While making a start in March, Aiken felt discomfort in his elbow and needed surgery.
''It was obviously disappointing,'' he said. ''I didn't see it coming. I was throwing for three months before that. I was throwing bullpens. I felt better than ever going into that game. When something like that happens there's not much you can do. I it was a shocking situation more than anything. We weren't really expecting it, but everything happens for a reason.''
Aiken, who is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, will continue to rehab at the Indians' training facility in Goodyear, Arizona.
Because Aiken was coming off surgery, Antonetti said the contract talks were not typical.
''It was a unique negotiation, although not that much because we had a good relationship with Brady, we just had to work through to a value that made sense for both sides,'' he said. ''The driving factor in it was Brady was really anxious to sign, to get with an organization and get on a path to rehab.''