2012 MLB Rule 5 Selection Meeting

The 2012 MLB Rule 5 Selection Meeting (AKA "Rule 5 Draft") will be held tomorrow morning in Nashville.

The Rule 5 Draft is the last order of business at the MLB Winter Meetings, and it is a mechanism that allows MLB clubs to select (draft) players off minor league reserve lists.

There is a "Major League Phase" where an MLB club can select Rule 5 Draft eligible players off minor league reserve lists for $50,000, a "AAA Phase" where a club's AAA minor league affiliate can select Rule 5 Draft eligible players off the reserve lists of clubs from lower classifications for $12,000, and finally a "AA Phase" where a club's AA minor league affiliate can select Rule 5 Draft eligible players off the Reserve Lists of Class "A" clubs for $4,000.

RULE 5 DRAFT ELIGIBILITY:

1. A minor league player who was 18 or younger on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract is eligible for selection starting with the 5th Rule 5 Draft after he signs, and a minor league player who was 19 years or older on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract becomes eligible for selection starting with the 4th Rule 5 Draft that followed his signing.

2. If a player signs his first contract after the conclusion of the season of the MLB or minor league club to which he is first assigned, the next season is considered to be the player's "first season" for Rule 5 eligibility purposes.

3. Any free-agent with prior MLB and/or minor league service who signs a minor league contract prior to the Rule 5 Draft is eligible for selection.

4. Any player on a minor league reserve list who has been outrighted to the minors previously in his career is eligible for selection.

5. Any player on a minor league reserve list who has either been released or had his contract voided and then re-signs with the same club within one year is eligible for selection.

6. An MLB club can designate any player on a minor league reserve list "eligible for selection" in the Rule 5 Draft even if the player would not normally be eligible, but once a player is made eligible for selection, he remains eligible for selection in all subsequent Rule 5 drafts. However, a player who was signed after being selected in the First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft) cannot be designated "eligible for selection" in a Rule 5 Draft until after the first anniversary of the player signing his first contract with an MLB organization.

7. A player on the Voluntary Retired List, Disqualified List, or Ineligible List is not eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft.

8. A minor league player-manager who would be eligible for selection if he was only a player can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but if he is selected, the player-manager can reject the selection. He has 30 days to decide. If he decides to reject the selection, the player-manager may not be re-signed as a player during the following season.  

RULE 5 DRAFT RESTRICTIONS:

1. A club must have as many slots open on its MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) prior to the Rule 5 Draft as the number of players it selects in the Major League Phase, and an MLB club's AAA and AA affiliates must have as many slots open on their respective reserve lists prior to the Rule 5 Draft as the number of players selected in the AAA and AA phases of the draft. There is no limit on the number of Rule 5 eligible players any one organization can lose, and a club can make as many selections in a particular phase of the Rule 5 Draft as the number of slots open on the club's or affiliate's reserve list for that phase (MLB 40-man roster, AAA 38-man roster, and AA 37-man roster).

2. A player selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft can be traded at any time, but the player cannot be non-tendered, released, or outrighted to the minors any earlier than 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day, and a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must be tendered a contract no later than 5 PM (Eastern) on the day the player is selected. 

3. A player selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft must remain on an MLB Active List and/or MLB Disabled List(s) for the entire MLB regular season following selection and must spend at least 90 days on an MLB Active List (25-man roster) before Rule 5 restrictions are removed. (If time spent on an MLB Active List is less than 90 days in the season following selection, the player remains a Rule 5 player into the next season, and the player continues to be a Rule 5 player until he has spent 90 days total on an MLB Active List).

4. If a club decides not to keep a player selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 draft on its MLB 25-man Active List (and/or MLB DL), the player must be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers, where any of the other 29 MLB clubs can claim the player for the $25,000 Rule 5 waiver price and assume the Rule 5 obligations.

5. If the Rule 5 player is not claimed off Outright Waivers, the player then must be offered back to the minor league club from which he was drafted, and the player's former club can reclaim the player for $25,000, with the player being automatically outrighted to the minor league Reserve List from which he was drafted. The club from which the player was drafted usually has 72 hours to decide whether to reclaim the player, but it has only 24 hours to decide if the player is eligible to be an Article XX-D Free-Agent if outrighted to the minors (player has at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or player has been outrighted previously in his career).

6. If a Rule 5 player is returned (outrighted) to the minor league club from which he was drafted, the drafting club is responsible for any portion of the player's salary above what the player was paid the previous season.

7. If a Rule 5 Player is returned (outrighted) to the minor league club from which he was drafted, and if the player has at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or has been outrighted previously in his career, the player can elect to be an MLB Article XX-D minor league free-agent after being outrighted (he has three days to decide), or he can accept the Outright Assignment and defer the right to be a minor league free-agent until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. (The player is not eligible to be an Article XX-D minor league free-agent after the conclusion of the MLB regular season if he accepts the Outright Assignment and is subsequently added back to an MLB Reserve List prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season).

8. If the minor league club from which the player was drafted declines to reclaim the player, the Rule 5 restrictions are removed, the drafting club retains the player, and the player can be sent to the minors or released.

9. A player selected in the AAA or AA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft must be assigned to the Reserve List of the AAA or AA club that drafted the player, and the player must be given a minimum 15-day trial in Spring Training (Minor League Camp) with that AAA or AA club, but the player can be assigned to the Active List of any minor league affiliate in the MLB club's organization once the minor league regular season commences. Also, unlike players selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, a player selected in the AAA or AA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft does not have to be offered back to the club from which he was drafted if the player is ultimately assigned to the Active List of a minor league affiliate below the level of the minor league affiliate that drafted the player.

10. A club can select a player off one of its own minor league affiliate's reserve list if it so chooses, but if the player is selected in the Major League Phase, the club is bound by the same Rule 5 roster restrictions as if it had selected the player off another club's minor league affiliate's reserve list. (An MLB club might not have had a slot available on its MLB 40-man roster when rosters were filed on November 20th but now it does, or an MLB club might have realized that it made a mistake after filing reserve lists on 11/20).  

11. A player eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft cannot be "covered-up" from selection, by either agreement between two clubs or by effect. If the Commissioner believes a player was "covered-up," the offending club or clubs are subject to a fine.

There are presently 52 Cubs players available for selection in tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft, not including any players the club might choose to designate "eligible for selection" prior to the draft. (A club might opt to designate a player "eligible for selection" if it expects to release the player before the start of the 2013 season, hoping to maybe get $4,000 or $12,000 if the player is selected in one of the minor league phases of the draft).

Also note that because free-agents signed to minor league contracts prior to the Rule 5 Draft are eligible for selection, Brian Bogusevic, Edwin Maysonet, Alberto Gonzalez, Johermyn Chavez, J. C. Boscan, Blake Parker, Kyler Burke, Marcos Mateo, and Jonathon Mota are eligible for selection.

It might seem counter-intuitive that a player who was a minor league free-agent would get drafted, but it has happened. (INF Jason Smith was selected off the AAA Iowa roster by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, less than a month after the Cubs signed Smith as a six-year minor league FA). Why? Sometimes the drafting club wanted to the sign the player when the player was a free-agent but was outbid, or maybe the player signed before the drafting club had a chance to make an offer, or maybe the drafting club did not have a roster slot available at the time the player was a free-agent, but now it does.

One of the most important things to understand about the list of Cubs minor leaguers eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft is that because clubs usually leave three or four slots open on their AAA affiliate's 38-man roster for minor league free-agents and players selected in the AAA Phase of the draft, probably only 34 or 35 of the 52 eligibles will be on the AAA Iowa reserve list (available for selection in the Major League Phase of the draft), with the other 17 or 18 on the AA (Tennessee) roster or on an "A" (Daytona, Kane County, Boise, AZL Cubs, or DSL Cubs) roster, available for $12,000 (if selected off the Tennessee roster in the AAA Phase) or for $4,000 (if selected off a Class-A roster in the the AA Phase) AND with no 2013 roster restrictions or right of return.

Here is the list of Cubs players eligible for selection in tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft, not including any players who might be designated "eligible for selection" prior to the draft.

This list also does not distinguish between players available for selection in the three phases, although I think it's likely that David Cales, Evan Crawford, Willengton Cruz, Michael de la Cruz, Antonio Encarnacion, Eduardo Figueroa, Alvido Jimenez, Luis Liria, Pedro Medina, Jose Montesino, Jonathon Mota, Felix Pena, Nelson Perez, Matt Spencer, Larry Suarez, Brett Wallach, Casey Weathers, and Ty Wright are probably on the AA Tennessee reserve list or on one of the or Class "A" affiliates reserve lists.

CUBS MINOR LEAGUERS ELIGIBLE FOR SELECTION IN 2012 MLB RULE 5 DRAFT:

Jeffry Antigua, LHP
Frank Batista, RHP
Jason Berken, RHP
Brian Bogusevic, OF
J. C. Boscan, C
Justin Bour, 1B
Michael Brenly, C
Michael Burgess, OF
Kyler Burke, LHP
David Cales, RHP
Esmailin Caridad, RHP
Marcelo Carreno, RHP
Matt Cerda, INF
Hunter Cervenka, LHP
Johermyn Chavez, OF
Casey Coleman, RHP
Evan Crawford, OF
Willengton Cruz, LHP
Michael de la Cruz, RHP
Antonio Encarnacion, RHP
Eduardo Figueroa, RHP
>Alberto Gonzalez, INF
Carlos Gutierrez, RHP
Marcus Hatley, RHP
Ty’Relle Harris, RHP
Jay Jackson, RHP
Alvido Jimenez, RHP
Austin Kirk, LHP
Luis Liria, RHP
Jeff Lorick, LHP
Marcos Mateo, RHP
Edwin Maysonet, INF
Pedro Medina, RHP (ex-OF)
Jose Montesino, INF
A. J. Morris, RHP
Jonathon Mota, INF
Blake Parker, RHP
Felix Pena, RHP
Starling Peralta, RHP
Nelson Perez, OF
Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
Greg Rohan, IF-OF
Jose Rosario, RHP
Zac Rosscup, LHP
Brian Schlitter, RHP
Ryan Searle, RHP
Matt Spencer, LHP (ex-OF)
Nick Struck, RHP
Larry Suarez, RHP
Brett Wallach, RHP
Casey Weathers, RHP
Ty Wright, OF

I think the five Cubs players most-likely to be selected in the Major League Phase are all pitchers: Struck, Burke, Antigua, Hatley, and Peralta (in that order), and I wouldn't be surprised if Liria, Suarez, W. Cruz, N. Perez, F. Pena, Jimenez, and/or E. Figueroa are selected in the AAA Phase.

Baseball America published a two-part preview of the 2012 Rule 5 Draft, listing 23 players it thinks have a decent chance to be selected. The article is for subscribers only, but here are the players:

Jesus Aguilar, RHP (CLE)
Ryan Chaffee, RHP (LAA)
Josh Fields, RHP (BOS)
Randy Henry, RHP (TEX)
Jon Keck, LHP (KC)
Marc Krauss, OF-1B (HOU)
Braulio Lara, LHP (TB)
Chris McGuiness, 1B (TEX)
Juan Sosa, RHP (PHI)
Coty Woods, RHP (COL)
Vidal Nuno, LHP (NYY)
Nick Struck, RHP (CUBS)
T. J. McFarland, LHP (CLE)
Austin Hyatt, RHP (PHI)
Jose Dominguez, RHP (LAD)
Kenny Faulk, LHP (DET)
Brian Moran, LHP (SEA)
Yonata Ortega, RHP (TEX)
Adam Reifer, RHP STL)
Josh Fellhauser, OF (CIN)
Cole Figueroa, INF (TB)
Carlos Perez, C (TOR)
Adrian Salcedo, RHP (MIN)

BA rates Lara and Sosa as having the most "upside," but both are raw and probably not ready for MLB (just like Lendy Castillo last year), while Chaffee and Fields are probably ready to pitch out of a big league bullpen right now.

That said, there are always surprises in the Rule 5 Draft. All it takes is one club to like a player, and he gets drafted.

And even if a player is selected in the Major League Phase, there is better than a 50-50 chance that the player will later be re-claimed.

For players "on the bubble," it's actually better to lose the player in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft with the possibility that the player could be returned (re-claimed), than to add a player to the MLB 40-man roster and then lose the player off waivers (for $20,000 with no right of return) if the 40-man roster slot is needed at a later time for another player.

There was a time prior to minor league free-agency when a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft could turn out to be pretty good, the most-famous example being future Hall of Fame RF Roberto Clemente (selected by Pittsburgh Pirates GM Branch Rickey from the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 when Clemente was a 20-year Dodger prospect).

The Cubs have acquired some significant players in the Rule 5 Draft over the years, too, most notably future Hall of Fame CF Hack Wilson (drafted from the New York Giants in 1925), long-time Phillies 2B Tony Taylor (drafted by the Cubs from the New York Giants in 1957, then traded to the Phillies for Don Cardwell in 1960), LHRP Guillermo "Willie" Hernandez (drafted by the Cubs from the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976, then traded back to the Phillies for Dick Ruthven in 1983, before ending up in Detroit and winning the A. L. Cy Young Award for the World Series Champion Tigers in 1984), and catcher Jody Davis (drafted from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1980).

Until fairly recently, the Cubs have been able to avoid losing players of note in the Rule 5 Draft. OF Jason Dubois and RHP Randy Wells were selected by the Toronto Blue Jays (Dubois in 2002 and Wells in 2007), but the Cubs got both back.

However, the Kansas City Royals selected 6'9 LHP Andy Sisco (Cubs 2001 2nd round pick) in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft (Sisco had a fine rookie season as a lefty reliever for the Royals in 2005 before hurting his arm), LHP Donald Veal (Cubs 2005 2nd round draft pick) was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft (after rehabbing from TJS, Veal turned out to be a "lights-out" MLB LOOGY for the White Sox in 2012), and the Baltimore Orioles selected INF Ryan Flaherty (Cubs 2008 1st round supplemental pick received for losing FA catcher Jason Kendall) in the Major League Phase of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft (Flaherty was subsequently rated by Baseball America as the Orioles #7 prospect last off-season, which I believe might have been the first time a Rule 5 draft pick ended up on the drafting club's BA Top 10 Prospects List).

The 6'5 LH hitting Flaherty played 2B-3B-RF-LF for the Orioles in 77 games in 2012 and hit only 216/258/359 (of course, he should have been in AAA), but he did hit six home runs, plus a another HR against the Yankees in the ALDS.

Also, 21-year old switch-hitting infielder Marwin Gonzalez (drafted by the Boston Red Sox from the AAA Iowa roster in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft and then traded to Houston) was the Astros #1 utility infielder in 2012, playing 80 games between SS-3B-2B (mainly SS).

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