In early December all of the front offices in baseball get together at the winter meetings to try and make trades, free agent signings and to a lesser extent, pick up other employees for the organization. On the final day of the winter meetings another important event takes place when the Rule 5 draft gets underway.
The Rule 5 draft was initially set up to keep teams from hoarding and holding back talented players from getting their opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. Over the years the rules have changed some, but as things are set up now the eligibility rules are pretty simple: Anyone on the 40-man roster is ineligible for the draft. A player who signed at 18-years-old or younger and this is their 5th Rule 5 draft since signing, they are eligible if not on the 40-man roster. A player who signed at 19-years-old or older and this is their 4th Rule 5 draft since signing and are not on the 40-man roster they are eligible to be selected. That’s it.
There are several stipulations that come along with the Rule 5 draft though. In order to make a pick, you must pay the team you select the player from $50,000 for their rights. The player must remain on your 25-man roster for the entire following season, with at least 90 days being on the active, non-disabled list roster. If a player is on the disabled list long enough and can’t meet the 90-day threshold, that carries forward into the next season until the total of 90 days is met. At that point a player can be optioned to the minor leagues, assuming they have options remaining. If a player is not carried on the 25-man roster, they must be returned to their original team, which will refund $25,000 to the team that selected the player. Sometimes we have seen the teams involved work out a trade after the fact in order to keep the player.
There is also a minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, which gets far more difficult to predict. In order to be eligible for either the Double-A or Triple-A phase, a team must leave you off of their 40-man roster, as well as a Triple-A reserve roster (which isn’t made public) or another Double-A reserve roster. The Triple-A roster is 38 players deep and the Double-A roster is 37 players deep. Essentially, to be selected in the Triple-A phase, an organization is saying that the player doesn’t rank inside of the top 78 players within the organization (40-man roster, plus that 38 player group at the Triple-A reserve roster). To be selected in the Double-A phase it would mean that a player isn’t among the top 115 players within the organization (the 40-man roster, the 38 men on the Triple-A reserve roster and then the 37 men on the Double-A reserve roster). And that of course only includes players that would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft to begin with.
The list of Rule 5 draftees who went on to be difference makers isn’t a long list, but it would include guys like Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton, Joakim Soria, Bobby Bonilla and most recently, Delino DeShields. The list of players that have gone on to be quality guys is much longer, and is filled with plenty of relievers, utility infielders and 4th outfielders.
The Cincinnati Reds are in prime position to select someone this year who could be left unprotected. They will have the second overall selection this year and with a rebuilding year upon them, should take full advantage of adding talent to the organization. There are always high upside arms available, though usually far from ready to produce in the Major Leagues. Perhaps the team can grab that extra-outfielder the bench needs for the 2016 season.
Let’s just hope it goes better than the last time the organization chose to participate in the Rule 5 draft (not counting the year in which they drafted a player and immediately traded him, having no intention of actually selecting a player). In December of 2007 the team selected Sergio Valenzuela from the Atlanta Braves. He was coming off of a season in A-ball where he posted an ERA of 7.00 with 37 walks and 38 strikeouts in 72.0 innings. He didn’t make the roster and was back with Atlanta before the middle of March. Valenzuela never made it out of A-ball, being loaned to a Mexican League team later that month by the Braves and he never returned to the United States, you can click here for more information. It was one of the strangest things I can recall the organization doing. Hopefully things go much like they did in 2006 when the team had the Cubs select Josh Hamilton for them and also selected Jared Burton. Check my source at powerfunder.co.uk and learn more.
As for the players that the Reds will be looking to protect or could possibly lose in the Rule 5 draft, I will have a few posts on that within the next week for both the pitchers and the position players.