One part of the annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings that gets often overlooked in the eyes of fans is the Rule 5 Draft. It goes on at the end of the week following the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.
For those unfamiliar with the Rule 5, it’s a draft where big league clubs can effectively steal players from other teams, players that are not protected on the 40-man roster. There are two portions of the draft, one for the majors and one for the minors. For the major league extension, there are a number of wrinkles to those selected in the draft:
- Any club making a selection in the Rule 5 Draft must pay $100K for their selection. If the player does not stay on the 25-man roster for the entirety of the upcoming season, he must be be offered back to his previous club in exchange for $50K
- Essentially, there’s a lifespan for players and eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft.
- Players first drafted at age 18 or younger and not on the 40-man roster within their first five professional seasons are subject to the Rule 5 Draft. This applies for players age 19 or older when first drafted and signed and not making the 40-man within the first four professional seasons.
The overall goal of the Rule 5 Draft is to prevent any clubs from completely overstocking its farm system while also present players with a vehicle and shorter path to reach their No. 1 goal of making the majors. It is worth mentioning that players typically mentioned in the Rule 5 are not household names in any capacity, at least for the general baseball fan. It’s basically a shot for teams to make a super cheap investment in a minor league player that is a budding major leaguer. For example, the Detroit Tigers could have a need on the big league roster that is elsewhere around the sport. It’s just like any other draft, teams do their scouting and reporting on players who might be of big help to their team.
As it stands, Detroit currently has the 20th pick in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. However, it is important to note that despite the low draft spot, a good portion of teams in front of them, if not all of them, will not make any such selection in the draft because they feel their 25-man roster is all set for spring training. That’s really the beauty of the Rule 5, it’s essentially optional for teams. But for some, perhaps the Tigers, it is an opportunity to maybe strike gold with a minor league player, a ‘diamond in the rough’ if you will.
On Tuesday, team general manager Al Avila appeared on MLB Network’s morning show Hot Stove to discuss the Tigers’ mindset at the Winter Meetings. And among the things he mentioned was the Rule 5 Draft and how he and his team will approach it.
“We do plan to be aggressive in the Rule 5. As a matter of fact, while I’m here, I have my guys studying it right now,” general manager Al Avila told MLB Network on Tuesday.
Avila went more in-depth about it, talking specifically about a clear need in center field and how he may find something there and entertain the though of having him pair with prospect JaCoby Jones.
“We don’t have a clear picture yet for center field. We like JaCoby Jones but we feel that in our best interests and his best interests, he starts the year in Triple-A,” Avila said. “But he’s going to have a chance to compete. Tyler Collins will have a chance to compete.
“But then we have the Rule-5 draft, we have a possible trade that we can make to get a young center fielder, and we might have the free agent market later on where guys fall through the cracks where you maybe get a guy who’s more cost-effective. So we have a lot of different avenues to look at that. It might not happen during the Winter Meetings. It might happen later on, it might happen through the Rule-5, so we’re going to attack it from different angles.”
The order of the Rule 5 is determined based on the final standings of the recently-concluded season in reverse order. So this weekend, the Minnesota Twins will have the No. 1 pick.
The Rule 5 does not go unnoticed by any means, there have been some brilliant success stories over the years. Some of the more successful picks in the history of the draft have been guys like former big leaguers Johan Santana and Shane Victorino, and current players Joakim Soria and Josh Hamilton. The majority of the time though, the players selected are solid contributors and fly under the radar. Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera and Blue Jays relief pitcher Joe Biagini are a couple of the more notable Rule 5 selections to garner solid success over the last two seasons.