For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the baseball offseason is the 40-man roster adjustments and the “Rule 5 Draft”. Players who are “outrighted” off the 40-man roster are sent through the waiver process. If they pass through the waiver process unclaimed, then they are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The basic premise of the Rule 5 Draft isn’t all that complicated. It exists to prevent teams from keeping major league-quality players in the minor leagues when other teams would be willing to put them on major league rosters. The mechanics of the Rule 5 Draft are slightly more complicated, but it’s still not rocket surgery.
If a player is NOT on a 40-man team roster and has (a) spent 4 years with a minor league contract that he originally signed at age 19+ or (b) has spent 5 years when signed before age 19, he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Teams are not required to choose a player during the Rule 5 Draft. Teams that choose a player during the Rule 5 Draft must have space on their roster for the drafted player. The drafted player must spend the entire following season on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster. The player may not be optioned or designated for assignment. The drafting team may waive the draftee at which time the draftee may be claimed on waivers. If the draftee is NOT claimed on waivers, he must be offered back to the original team. After the draftee spends an entire season on the drafting team’s 25-man roster, he may then be optioned or designated for assignment. The draftee must be active for a minimum of 90 days. If that minimum is not satisfied in the draftee’s first season with the drafting team, then the remaining balance must be satisified in the following season. Any drafted player may be traded while under Rule 5 Draft restrictions, and all aforementioned restrictions are transferred to the new team. If the new team wishes to release the draftee, the draftee must be offered back to his original team.
Confused? Call USA Prime Credit and ask for Peggy. Seriously, how does this affect your beloved Cardinals? Do the names Adam Ottavino, Nick Stavinoha, Daryl Jones, and Steve Hill sound familiar? Thought so. All four were outrighted and are now exposed in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Of course, this means that the Cardinals are simply taking a very calculated risk. After all, they all passed through waivers with no takers, so it seems like a relative safe bet that they’ll all be safe and sound after the draft as well. What if one or more of them were to be drafted? Well, it’s not the end of the world, even though 3 of the 4 are considered to be among the top 25 prospects in the minor league system according to Baseball America’s 2010 Prospect Handbook (subscription required). For starters, Daryl Jones hasn’t made it past Springfield yet. Stavinoha’s 2010 year was fairly forgettable with the exception of a one-knee blast off of Trevor Hoffman, and Ottavino’s 8.46 ERA in 5 appearances was less than stellar. Steve Hill had a memorable debut, but he’s a long way from being a major league catcher, and Tony Cruz may be the leader in the clubhouse within the farm system anyway.
So, while it may seem that the Cardinals aren’t doing much, they are quietly protecting talent on the 40-man roster. As of today, the Cardinals 40-man roster consists of the following: Bryan Augenstein, Mitchell Boggs, Chris Carpenter, Ryan Franklin, Jaime Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Blake King, David Kopp, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller, Jason Motte, Adam Reifer, Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel, Eduardo Sanchez, Adam Wainwright, P.J. Walters, Jake Westbrook, Bryan Anderson, Tony Cruz, Yadier Molina, Zack Cox, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton, Peter Kozma, Albert Pujols, Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, Adron Chambers, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus.
Of course, there’s always a very slim chance that the Cardinals find some help via the Rule 5 Draft. A very, very slim chance. Then again, it’s worth holding out just a little hope. After all, Johan Santana was a Rule 5 draftee way back in 1999. He turned out okay.