In a conference call to announce the signing of Carlos Rodon, Rick Hahn spent much of the time hitting on two points:
- Praising Jerry Reinsdorf for opening up the budget to invest as much money as the rules would allow, without giving up a draft pick, anyway.
- Declining to speculate on any firm timeline for Rodon, saying he needs to build up arm strength, get back on a schedule and get on the Sox' program before figuring out what any kind of assignments or trajectory might look like.
But both of those were to be expected. The wild card was Scott Boras. Hahn has downplayed any kind of acrimony with Rodon's agent, saying the White Sox had a working relationship with him on various clients in the past. However, trying to sign the No. 3 overall pick (who wanted No. 1 money) is on a whole 'nother level from signing somebody like Andruw Jones, or going year-to-year with Joe Crede and Dayan Viciedo.
When asked about the negotiations, Hahn gave a professional answer:
"I think the bottom line is at the end of the day, we were able to negotiate a deal that benefits the club and benefits the kid, and that we're all very excited about this partnership going forward. My conversations with Scott obviously were productive and got us to this point. I don't want to get too deep into the back-and-forth, or any points where progress may have stagnated, but we were on pace to obviously get something done, and we were able to do that a week before the deadline."
From that answer -- and from the $6.582 million bonus Rodon signed for -- you can't imagine Hahn and Boras walking into a media room hand-in-hand, raising arms in triumph. I'd also extrapolate from the negotiation process that the Sox are going to be very careful about his service time. I imagine that when he gets to the majors, it's going to be as a starter, because they can't count on him signing an extension as early as Chris Sale did.
Still, it's a start. It may be an expensive start, but there's something to be said for putting your money where your mouth is and investing serious first-round money in the preferred first-round choice. Neither side can come away insulted.
For a study in contrast, look at what's happening with the Houston Astros and Brady Aiken.
Aiken and the Astros had agreed to a $6.5 million deal, with most of the parameters established before the draft, but last week, Jon Heyman reported that an elbow ligament issue had caused the Astros to come back with a lower offer.
Aiken's side isn't biting, because it's unclear whether anything's actually wrong with him.
The Houston Astros began grinding on the left-hander from Cathedral Catholic High even before they made him the first overall pick in last month’s draft, lowballing Aiken with their initial signing bonus offer.
It is a tactic the Astros used effectively two years ago.
Houston is attempting to go one step further this time, trying to discount Aiken’s bonus even more after a reported medical problem surfaced during tests.
Did Houston really stumble onto something significant — an elbow ligament issue, as CBSsports.com has reported — or is all this a bargaining ploy by the Astros to save money on Aiken that can be allocated elsewhere?
The "elsewhere" refers to the Astros' fifth- and 21st-round picks, both of whom are college-bound pitchers seeking a bonus in the neighborhood of $1.5 million. I'd recommend reading the whole piece, because it gives you an idea of why Aiken's side would be skeptical of the Astros' position. For instance, you'll see how the recent Sports Illustrated cover story blew their cover on their initial lowball stance, which makes their successive attempts to save money look a little sketchy.
Would love to see the doctor's report that recommends signing a pitcher for $5 million, instead of $6.5 million. http://t.co/QOpTseXDJ1— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 12, 2014
(This probably not going to help the Astros' reputation as an organization that views humans as numbers.
The Sox could've tried to get a two-for-one with Rodon's money by saving some for their own signability guy -- 14th-round pick Bryce Montes De Oca -- but they instead chose rein in their ambition, with only third-rounder Jace Fry receiving an over-slot bonus.
Perhaps the Astros' ambition will pay off by signing Aiken and one or two other pitchers, and their unprofessional appearance at the moment will be written off as merely super-tough negotiations. Perhaps something's wrong with Aiken, and the Astros' reaction is warranted. Right now, the acrimony shows there are worse obstacles encountered while trying to sign a draft pick than a notorious agent. At least the Sox didn't get in their own way.