Exploiting the Rule-5 Draft: A Padres’ Organizational Perspective:
The San Diego Padres selected three young kids in this year’s Rule-5 draft. They drafted one player and swung trades for the other two prospects. All three of the selections are higher ceiling talents, but their organizations decided to leave them unprotected. Because of the ceiling on these prospects, they were likely left unprotected by their organizations simply because they thought they would not be selected due to proximity. The Padres apparently did not get the memo.
A.J. Preller has shown a propensity to hoard high ceiling talent as evidenced by his trades for Chris Paddack, Anderson Espinoza, etc., as well as taking gambles in the draft on players like Cal Quantrill, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery. The fact that Preller nabbed three young kids, who are legit prospects with upside, should really surprise nobody. The question now is what the Padres do with these kids and can they keep them on the 25 man roster for a full season?
The Padres are projected to have the lowest payroll in baseball for 2017 as they non-tendered anyone who was due for a raise that didn’t fit in their long-term plans. Given how far away the current Padres’ major league roster is from competing with the likes of the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, etc., it only makes sense the Padres would tank and put all their resources into drafting, signing, and developing young high ceiling talent in an effort to put together a similar “wave” of talent that resulted in the Cubs winning a World Series Title.
With the current modus operandi of adding talent to the system for a future run, selecting three high ceiling prospects and stashing them should be no surprise. Keeping all three on the 25-man would be unprecedented, however. Do the Padres need to keep all three on the 25-man? The answer is no, but I think they could if they wanted to.
Let’s assume for a moment the Padres don’t actually believe they can stash three kids on the 25-man roster that have never played above A-Ball.
The Padres don’t necessarily have to keep these kids on the 25-man in order to retain them. Last year, the Padres struck a deal to retain Jabari Blash. They must have seen enough in him to warrant keeping him through a trade.
When a player who is still seen as three years away from the majors becomes Rule-5 eligible, his value to his current organization takes a hit. This is because that organization is forced to add him to a valuable 40-man spot or risk losing him. Let’s say Luis Torrens did not get drafted in this year’s Rule-5 draft. The Yankees would have had to add him in a year or risk losing him again. Being three years away, a team like the Yankees probably knows at some point they are going to lose this prospect if they don’t add him to the 40-man sooner than they would prefer. This in turn lowers the prospect’s value to that organization. In steps an organization like the Padres to take advantage.
Most of the Padres future high-end talent is several years away from needing 40-man protection. For a rebuilding team, this is the perfect opportunity to rid yourself of marginal 40-man talent, i.e. little ninja, and stack it with high-upside talent. The Padres are leveraging their situation to take advantage of a process that others currently are not. Or at least not as flamboyantly.
The Padres will have an opportunity now to decide whether to keep these talented Rule-5 kids on the 25-man or not. But, they will get an extended look through at least spring training on all three in order to evaluate them on a more personal basis. Knowing more about each prospect personally gives them information to evaluate not only on deciding whether or not to keep them on the 25-man roster, but also to see if they truly believe in each player long-term. They get a chance to see their mindset, work ethic, confidence etc. This is valuable information. Let’s say the Padres decide Torrens, for example, just isn’t ready for the big leagues at all, but still love him as a prospect. They would now have an opportunity to at least go back to the Yankees and try to get a deal worked out to retain him and stash him on the 40-man and/or minors instead and allow him to develop. They would likely get him at a much cheaper trade price than had Torrens still been a protected prospect. If the Yankees internally believe Torrens won’t be added to the 40-man roster next year, then they may be enticed to part with him for more than the $100,000 a team pays to select him.
So, for me, whether or not the Padres keep all three on the 25 man roster is irrelevant. What matters is that the Padres are getting a chance to personally evaluate three high ceiling prospects and potentially adding all three in some fashion at below market value.