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Rule 5 Draft Rumors
We're near the end of spring training, a time when there's plenty of news about players taken in the Rule 5 Draft, as teams decide whether to place those players on their 25-man rosters (and commit, at least in theory, to keeping them there the entire year) or to give them up, allowing other teams to claim them on waivers or allowing their original teams to buy them back.
Historically, some of the top players to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft include Roberto Clemente, Darrell Evans, Bobby Bonilla and George Bell. But let's begin our list of highlights from the Rule 5 with Johan Santana's selection in 1999, so that most of the players listed below are still active.
The talent in the Rule 5 Draft has been diluted in recent years since a 2006 change in Major League Baseball's CBA that allowed teams to protect their players from the Rule 5 process for an extra year without placing them on their 40-man rosters. These changes mean that, in the next 10 to 15 years, the Rule 5 will likely produce far less talent than it did from 1999 through 2005.
We may be reaching the point, in fact, where the damage the Rule 5 Draft can do to a player's career outstrips the benefit of having the draft at all. The draft is designed to prevent teams from hoarding MLB-ready players in the minors. But if the last few drafts are any indication, teams simply are not doing that very frequently (at least, not with players not already protected on 40-man rosters), as the Rule 5 has produced strikingly little talent since Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria were selected in 2006.
Meanwhile, the Rule 5 process can create situations in which players who ought to be in the minors languish in the majors. Take the case of Donnie Veal, who the Pirates selected in the Rule 5 Draft in 2008. Veal had pitched that year in the Cubs system, demonstrating promising stuff but serious struggles with control. The Rule 5 Draft forced the Pirates to carry him on their active roster, but they had no confidence in his ability to retire major-league hitters, so they used him sparingly out of the bullpen, then placed him on the disabled list in order to allow him to play rehab games in the minors. (Pirates GM Neal Huntington characterized one of Veal's trips to the DL as "admittedly an aggressive placement.") Veal pitched only 16 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh that year, walking 20 batters in the process, and he added 27 1/3 innings in the minors. All told, Veal pitched over 100 fewer innings in 2009 than he did in 2008.
The Rule 5 system generally works well among competitive teams. A team that is actively trying to win will have a difficult time hiding a Rule 5 player on a roster the entire season unless he's truly ready. But for a non-competitive team like the 2009 Pirates or the 2012 Astros, there's little reason not to try to keep a player who has upside, even if he wouldn't ordinarily be in the majors. For example, the Astros drafted reliever Rhiner Cruz from the Mets in 2011, even though he had never played above Double-A and exhibited serious control issues even there. The Astros then kept Cruz the entire year, and he posted a 6.05 ERA and 4.75 BB/9. It's impossible to say for certain whether Cruz have been better served by pitching in the minors in 2012, but most teams would have placed him in Triple-A, or perhaps even Double-A.
Occasionally, a player will keep his head above water throughout his Rule 5 year, as Lucas Luetge did last year with the Mariners, or Joe Paterson did in 2011 with the Diamondbacks. But an argument could be made that the Rule 5 Draft now hurts as much as it helps.
Nonetheless, the Rule 5 Draft did produce a fair amount of talent — about one impact player per year — from 1999 through 2006, mostly before the change to the CBA. Here are some of the best players selected in the Rule 5 Draft since 1999. (We'll just look at the major-league portion, although, once in a blue moon, good players do come out of the minor-league portion — the Rangers got Alexi Ogando that way in 2005, for example.)
Johan Santana (1999). The Marlins plucked Santana from the Astros' Midwest League affiliate, then immediately shipped him to the Twins for minor-leaguer Jared Camp. Santana was then very raw, and he struggled in 2000, posting a 6.49 ERA. By 2002, though, he was the Twins' best pitcher, and in 2004, he won his first Cy Young award.
Derrick Turnbow (1999). The Angels picked Turnbow from the Phillies, and they allowed him to make 24 appearances in 2000 despite serious struggles with control. After his Rule 5 year, Turnbow spent several years in the minors before reemerging, briefly, as a flamethrowing closer for the Brewers.
Jay Gibbons (2000).The Orioles snagged Gibbons from the Blue Jays after a .321/.404/.525 season at Double-A Tennessee, and he had a solid, if unspectacular, career in Baltimore, hitting 15 homers in his 2001 debut, and posting 20-plus homers in three seasons after that. The other notable in the 2000 draft was Endy Chavez, who was selected by the Royals from the Mets.
Shane Victorino (2002 and 2004). The Padres took Victorino in 2002 but returned him to the Dodgers in May. A year and a half later, the Phillies took Victorino, and again, he didn't stick. The Phillies offered him back to the Dodgers, meaning that the Dodgers would have had to return half the meager $50K the Phillies spent to select him, but, remarkably, former GM Paul DePodesta and the Dodgers declined, so the Phillies stashed Victorino in Triple-A Scranton, where he hit .310/.377/.534. Victorino earned a regular job in the Phillies outfield in 2005.
Jose Bautista (2003). Inexplicable management of their 40-man roster led the woeful Pirates to give up five of the first six picks in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft, leading to open laughter in the ballroom where the draft took place. Bautista was the sixth pick, and he headed to the Orioles. He was very raw at the time, having missed much of the previous season due to injury and having never played above Class A+. After the Orioles let him go, the Devil Rays and then the Royals claimed him. Kansas City shipped him to the Mets for Justin Huber, and the Mets sent him back to the Pirates in the Kris Benson deal. Other notables in the 2003 Rule 5 included Jason Grilli and Willy Taveras.
Dan Uggla (2005). Uggla hit .297/.378/.502 for the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate in 2005, but he was 25 at the time, so after the Marlins snagged him as a Rule 5 pick, it still came as a surprise when he hit 27 home runs and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting the following year.
Joakim Soria (2006). Soria's selection was a scouting coup for the Royals. In 2006, Soria had only pitched 11 2/3 innings in the states, all at Class A Fort Wayne in the Padres' system. The Royals selected him anyway, and he pitched a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League two days later. Mere months later, he became one of baseball's best relievers.
Josh Hamilton (2006). On his way back from a long bout with drug addiction, Hamilton had only collected 50 pro at-bats since 2002 by the time of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Nonetheless, the Reds took a cheap gamble on the former first overall amateur draft pick, purchasing him after the Cubs selected him from the Rays in the Rule 5. Hamilton hit .292/.368/.554 for Cincinnati the following year.
Randy Wells (2007). The Blue Jays grabbed Wells but returned him to the Cubs two weeks into the 2008 season. Wells spent most of that season in the minors, then emerged as a mid-rotation starter for the Cubs, pitching fairly well in their rotation in 2009 and 2010.
R.A. Dickey (2007). Dickey was already 33 by the time the 2007 Rule 5 Draft took place, but it would be a couple more years before Dickey would harness his knuckleball and become a dominant major-leaguer. In the Rule 5, the Mariners drafted Dickey away from the Twins, then shipped minor-leaguer Jair Fernandez to Minnesota and sent Dickey to the minors. Dickey pitched 112 1/3 mediocre innings in the majors in 2008, then headed back to the Twins and on to the Mets, where he emerged as a star at age 35.
Everth Cabrera (2008). The Padres grabbed Cabrera out of Class A Asheville in the Rockies' system, and the shortstop has provided San Diego with good baserunning value since then.
Darren O'Day (2008). With 3.9 wins above replacement since the Mets drafted him out of the Angels system, O'Day has probably provided the best return on investment of any Rule 5 pick since 2006, although that's not saying much. (Dickey was two years and two teams removed from the Rule 5 process by the time he made an impact.) O'Day made four appearances with the Mets before being plucked off waivers by the Rangers, who made him a key part of their bullpen while he was still in his Rule 5 year.
Ivan Nova (2008). The Padres drafted Nova out of the Yankees system, then returned him right before the 2009 season began. The pitcher spent another year in the minors before making his big-league debut with New York in 2010.
Former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie is convinced that the city of Montreal would welcome baseball back with open arms, writes Bill Beacon of the Canadian Press. Cromartie is heading up the Montreal Baseball Project — an organization that has been formed with the goal of bringing baseball back to Montreal. The $400K project will be completed by year's end and feature financial analysis, legal consultation and extensive market research among the city's population. Here's more from around the league for those of you in the mood for some late-night reading…
- Former Expo (and Angel, Ranger and Oriole) Vladimir Guerrero has an offer from the independent league Quebec Capitales, and he's been in contact with the Long Island Ducks as well, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (confirming an earlier tweet from Chris Cotillo).
- The Indians are hopeful of working out a trade with the Rangers to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Chris McGuiness, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- The Yankees had preliminary discussions with Yuniesky Betancourt on Sunday but don't see a fit, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports (via Twitter).
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart breaks down Rick Ankiel's incentive structure with the Astros (on Twitter). Ankiel, who has a $750K base salary, will receive $75K for 200, 250 and 300 plate appearances. He'll then receive $100K for 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances. All told, he could earn $1.275MM. Ankiel, an Article XX(B) free agent, was named the team's everyday right fielder earlier today.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times expects the Angels to receive a low- to mid-level prospect from the Yankees when the reported Vernon Wells trade is finalized (Twitter link).
- Joey Nowak of MLB.com lists 12 notable out of options players who could be traded before the end of Spring Training.
The Orioles are contacting other teams to let them know reliever Luis Ayala is available in a trade, the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly reports. The O’s would like to find space on their 25-man roster for Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland. They might be looking for players in return who aren’t required to be placed on the 40-man roster, Connolly says.
Ayala will make $1MM in 2013. He pitched 75 innings for the Orioles in 2012, posting a 2.64 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9.
2:35pm: The Nationals announced, via Twitter, they have accepted Rosenbaum back from Rockies and he will report to minor league camp.
12:58 pm: The Rockies are returning Rule 5 Draft pick Danny Rosenbaum to the Nationals, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times (Twitter link). MLB.com's Thomas Harding adds, also via Twitter, that the move will become official once Colorado's signing of Jon Garland is finalized.
The Rockies selected Rosenbaum with the third pick in December's Rule 5 Draft. In eight Spring Training innings for Colorado, Rosenbaum allowed four runs on nine hits and three walks without registering a strikeout.
Last season, Rosenbaum fired 155 1/3 innings over the course of 26 starts for the Nats' Double-A affiliate, compiling a 3.94 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. The Xavier University product was a 22nd-round selection by Washington in the 2009 draft.
The left-hander ranked as Colorado's No. 22 prospect, according to Baseball America, who said that he "had a decent chance to be a touch-and-feel lefty at the back of a big league rotation" thanks to his ability to command an 84-90 mph fastball and a solid change-up.
Here are a few updates from the American League West:
- The Rangers are "among the teams who have a scout watching free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse throw simulated games” at a local community college, but "this may be more due diligence than anything," writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Sullivan further reports that "Rangers officials acknowledged they are keeping an eye on Kyle Lohse," but "are still holding to their stance they will not sign Lohse this spring." According to Sullivan, "the Rangers are ready to go with what they have here in camp," most likely either Nick Tepesch or Michael Kirkman.
- Mariners manager Eric Wedge discussed the team's unwillingness to commit a rotation spot to Jon Garland, as reported by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Wedge explained that Garland's out clause created an "unusual situation" because the club has "multiple non-roster guys in this camp that have a chance to make this club." Garland was released on Saturday.
- The Astros are close to deciding whether to keep Rule 5 pick Josh Fields, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Odds look good for Fields, "considering how wide open the bullpen is." Another Rule 5 pick previously in Astros camp, Nate Freiman, has already been claimed by the Athletics.
3:00 PM: The move is official, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (on Twitter).
1:46 PM: The Tigers will return Rule 5 Draft pick Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports (on Twitter). He will return to the Nats' minor-league system. Kobernus, an infielder, .282/.325/.333 in 330 at bats for Double-A Harrisburg in 2012. In accordance with Rule 5 guidelines, the Nationals will have to pay the Tigers $25K in exchange for Kobernus.
The Athletics have claimed first baseman Nate Freiman from the Astros, according to the A's (on Twitter). The A's have placed Fernando Rodriguez on the 60-day DL to clear roster space for Freiman. Freiman hit .298/.370/.502 for the Padres' Double-A affiliate in 2012 before the Astros picked him in the Rule 5 Draft. He will need to stick on the Athletics' 25-man roster this season, or the A's risk losing him.
Pirates catcher Russell Martin thought he would be returning to the Yankees this offseason, Chad Jennings of the Journal News reports. "I thought I was going to be in pinstripes. I thought I was going to be penciled in there, but shows how much I know," Martin says. "There’s really no hard feelings or anything like that. I see it as a business move, and that’s it, really." After catching for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, Martin agreed to a two-year deal with Pittsburgh in late November. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- Martin also says the Yankees' current catchers, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, are well-equipped to replace him, particularly on defense. "Both those guys can catch," Martin says. "I learned some stuff from Stewart last year just on how quick he is, first of all. Just throwing the ball to second base, and how quick his hands are. His game calling is really good. His receiving’s really good. So defensively, both those guys have got a lot of upside."
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has to figure out what to do with the team's two players from the Rule 5 Draft, pitcher Kyle Lobstein and second baseman Jeff Kobernus, MLB.com's Jason Beck writes. It might be possible for Dombrowski to work out a trade with the Rays to keep Lobstein and send him to the minor leagues, Beck suggests, but swinging a deal with the Nationals to keep Kobernus will be more difficult.
- The Dodgers have signed four international players, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Three of those players, shortstop Dennis Santana, shortstop Carlos Aquino and left-handed pitcher Cesar Romero, are from the Dominican Republic. The fourth, Dashenko Ricardo, is from Curacao and played catcher for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Ricardo had previously played in the Orioles and Giants organizations. The Giants released him in January.
The Diamondbacks have returned Rule 5 pick Starlin Peralta to the Cubs, AZCentral.com's Bob McManaman reports. Peralta pitched three innings for the Diamondbacks in spring training, allowing seven runs while walking three batters and striking out none. Peralta, 22, pitched in Class A Peoria in 2012. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum says he's satisfied with his team's position players heading into the season, Carrie Muskat and Owen Perkins of MLB.com report. Sveum hasn't given GM Jed Hoyer a "wish list" of acquisitions, Muskat and Perkins note. The Cubs acquired infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Shawn Camp near the end of spring training in 2012, and both played key roles for the team last year.
- The manager of Pirates outfielder Travis Snider's former team says Snider could thrive with his new organization, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Current Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who served an earlier stint as the Jays' manager when Snider was among the team's top prospects, compares Snider to Jose Bautista, who became one of baseball's best power hitters after being traded from Pittsburgh to Toronto. "[Bautista] was bouncing around, and it took him a while to get it going. Sometimes what happens is they give up on you too soon," Gibbons says. "But if you're in the perfect spot and they've got time to give you a legitimate shot, that's when guys usually get it going." The Pirates acquired Snider for reliever Brad Lincoln last July.
- A major league executive tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) that he believes Drew will sign with the A's for one year with an additional player option for 2014.
- If Drew ends up signing elsewhere and the Tigers do indeed find a new shortstop (possibly Drew himself), the A's would likely make a move to acquire Jhonny Peralta. Peralta and his $6MM salary would obviously be expendable to the Tigers in that scenario.
- The two don't immediately line up on paper as a fit given the Tigers' need for a right-handed hitting outfielder (the Tigers aren't interested in Michael Taylor). However, Slusser writes that Detroit likes Jemile Weeks and would contemplate moving him to the outfield. There's no guarantee the A's would move Weeks, however, even though they demoted him to Triple-A this season.
- Hiroyuki Nakajima is still in play for the A's, and he's seeking a three-year deal worth about $5MM annually. Most believe he'll have trouble doing better than one year and an option, though.
- Contrary to some national reports, Grant Green and Brad Peacock were not on the table in the team's Yunel Escobar trade discussions with the Marlins.
- The A's aren't likely to select a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow, but there's a good chance that they lose 2007 first-rounder James Simmons to another club. Simmons, the 26th overall selection that year, posted a 2.98 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 K/9 in 63 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. The 26-year-old also turned in a dominant performance in the Arizona Fall League.