What exactly is the Rule 5 draft?


And so I return to the blog-o-sphere to report on what I would do if I was given the keys to the Twins organization and replaced Bill Smith as the Twins GM. With the help of TwinsCentric’s 2011 GM Handbook (recently reviewed by our lead writer here) I’m going to play GM to help me fill the days and hours that make up the off-season.  The first thing to do, aside from searching through a seemingly endless supply of free agents (of varying quality) is to set the 40-man roster.  When teams head to the winter meetings this year (05-08 December) they’ll need to have their rosters set in preparation for the rule 5 draft.

If you’re just a casual baseball fan, and I must admit, that’s what I’ve been most of my life, the rule 5 draft might be seem to be clouded in mystery and shrouded in obscure rules and regulations. So before I get into who I’ll be putting on my roster and why, let’s take a look at what exactly the Rule 5 draft is all about, I think I’ve finally figured it out.

The Rule 5 draft, which takes it’s name from it’s position in the rules of MLB, is around to prevent any team from hoarding all of the great young talents of the game in their minor league system. (The “draft” everyone things of when they hear “draft” is the Rule 4 draft, also known as the first year player draft or amateur draft.)  Each year at the winter meetings all of the General Managers get together and your position in the draft order is based upon your record from the previous season. Everything seems pretty simple so far, but this is where the simplicity ends, so  let’s dig a litle deeper into the Rule 5 draft.

So who’s eligible?  Any player who does not appear on his team’s 40-man roster can be selected in the Rule 5 draft, assuming they meet either of the following criteria: 1) The player was drafted at age 18 or older and has been in the organization for 4 years+ or 2) the player was drafted before age 18 and has been in the organization for 5 years+.  This gives organizations time to develop their draftees and protects their top prospects early in their careers.  That means that this year there are a plethora of valuable Twins prospects available for the Rule 5 draft, Anthony Slama, Cole DeVries, Jair Fernandez Tom Stuifbergen, Carlos Gutierrez, and Danny Lehmann just to name a few of the big names in the Twins system.

Once a player is chosen in the draft he is immediately added to his new team’s 40-man roster.  Consequently, a team that has no openings on its 40-man roster is not eligible to participate in the Rule 5 draft.  Will the Twins save some space on their roster to participate in the draft, or will they use their entire roster to protect the prospects above? Another aspect of the draft to consider is that if a draftee does not spend the entirety of the following season on the new team’s 25-man roster, he must be optioned back to his original team.  Last season the Twins drafted Braves minor league pitcher Scott Diamond but could not keep him on the 25-man roster all season and ended up making a trade with the Braves sending the hard throwing Billy Bullock to the Braves in exchange for Diamond.  Diamond did make some spot starts in the big league this season for the Twins and finished with a 5.08 ERA when the dust settled on the season.

So now that we’ve cleared away some of the cloud around the Rule 5 draft, let’s take a look at the 40-man roster as it stands right now: (the following provided courtesy of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook)

Position Players          Pitchers
Joe Benson                   Scott Baker
Drew Butera                 Nick Blackburn
Alexi Casilla                 David Bromberg
Michael Cuddyer         Alex Burnett
Luke Hughes                Matt Capps
Jason Kubel                 Scott Diamond
Joe Mauer                    Brian Duensing
Justin Morneau          Deolis Guerra
Tsuyoshi Nishioka     Liam Hendriks
Chris Parmelee           Jim Hoey
Trevor Plouffe              Francisco Liriano
Ben Revere                   Jeff Manship
Denard Span               Jose Mijares
Rene Tosoni                Joe Nathan
Danny Valencia         Lester Oliveros
Carl Pavano
Glen Perkins
Kevin Slowey
Anthony Swarzak
Esmerling Vasquez
Kyle Waldrop

The list above puts the Twins at 36, but free agents Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan will all be coming off the roster and that puts the number a 32. With 8 spots open on the roster right now, there are a lot of different directions the Twins could move, they may even remove several more players from the roster who they do not fear will be picked up in the Rule 5 draft (ie Drew Butera!). There also needs to be room for any signings that take place between now and the Rule 5 draft.  Will the Twins be able to work out a deal with Cuddyer or Kubel, or will 2012 see both in new homes around the league?

Who to protect? Who to leave available? Fill the roster or leave a spot or 2 open for the draft? Come back next week and I’ll preview any off-season moves that I’d like to see happen and publish my proposed 40-man roster.