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Hitting the Lotto & Losing the Ticket

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You’re 17 and were just offered $6.5 million– what do you do?

You accept it of course! But wait, what if you suddenly became ineligible to earn that much money and it was is reduced to $3.2 million instead? Yes, you will be upset that you are now being offered half the money, but do you still leave $3.2 million on the table? If I asked every 17-year-old in the world if they would take the $3.2 million I bet they all would say yes, unless their name is Brady Aiken.

Brady Aiken? Who in the world is Brady Aiken? Mr. Aiken was the number one overall pick of the recent 2014 MLB draft taken by the Houston Astros. After being drafted it was time to sign a contract. The most the Astros were allowed to offer him (there are many many rules when it comes to baseball and non-free agent contracts) was $7.9 million. They initially offered him $6.5 million instead; Bryce Harper got $6.25 million to put the numbers into some perspective.

As is protocol, Aiken had to be tested by the Astros’ doctors –that was when everything went downhill. It was discovered that Aiken, “may have some (of the UCL), but not much” according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Apparently his UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) is short. For those who are not doctors, the UCL is a ligament in the inner part of your elbow and is the primary tissue that stabilizes the elbow.

Having a small UCL does not mean that Aiken is hurt, he’s obviously performed with that abnormality his whole life; however, it can really effect his future effectiveness. Once the Astros were informed about Aiken’s elbow they quickly offered him $3.2 million, which is the lowest amount of money they could offer him in order to guarantee them the number two overall pick next year. That shows that his elbow injury really scared them away. The only reason they still offered that much money was because they want the number two pick next year.

This whole UCL issue reminds me of the Mets last Cy Young Award winner, RA Dickey. RA Dickey was a top prospect in 1996, he pitched on the Olympic team and was drafted 18th overall by the Texas Rangers. He was due to have a signing bonus of $810,000 (players did not make that much money back then, relatively speaking) but it was soon discovered that he DID NOT HAVE a UCL ligament. He never felt pain in his elbow (they’re saying the same thing about Brady Aiken), was a flame thrower, and a very successful pitcher all while missing his UCL. The Rangers quickly reduced the signing bonus to a measly $75,000 knowing that Dickey will not be able to have a long career pitching the way that made him successful in the first place. Dickey did not go home crying and reject the Rangers offer, he accepted it and started to reinvent the type of pitcher he was and created one of the fastest (and nastiest) knuckleball of all time.

Aiken should have accepted the offer for two reasons: one, $3.2 million is $100,000 a year for 32 years, 99 percent of people can retire happily with that amount of money and two, who knows how severe his abnormality is – it’s obviously severe enough for the Astros to forfeit their number one pick. He probably won’t be the number one pick next year and the $3.2 million that the Astros offered will probably be the biggest signing bonus he will ever receive. Sometimes it is good to be stubborn, sometimes it is really bad.

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