The Major-League Baseball Winter Meetings, held every year, take place at the beginning of the merry month of December, long after the regular baseball season has ended.
At the culmination of these meetings, and in ceremonial fashion, the MLB Rule-5 Draft takes place.
It is a hasty and hurried event that usually takes no longer than a quick half hour to occur.
Even though not all teams elect to make picks during the draft, most everyone from the MLB Winter Meetings attend the event. For many executives and managers there can be a sense of angst and suspense for who might be pilfered from the lower levels of their baseball club or what clubs are making moves for their own squad.
Sandy Alderson, the G.M. of the New York Mets, attests that it is the best part of the Winter Meetings, “Everyone is in there, and everyone wants to see what’s going to happen.” (“Baseball Executives’ idea of Gambling, The Rule 5 Draft”, David Waldstein, NY Times, Dec 2016) For the kids drafted through this event, and the new possibility of making a heftier paycheck, the month of December becomes very merry indeed.
Simply put, players are eligible for the Rule-5 draft if they have been in the minor-league system for a given amount of time, and not been given the chance to crack a major-league roster. Using June 5th as the cutoff date, if the player was 18 or younger on June 5th preceding their signing date, the player is eligible at the fifth Rule-5 draft given that the original team has not put them on their 40-man roster.
If the player was 19 or older, then it is the fourth Rule-5 draft after signing. If a player is drafted through this process, the receiving team must keep the player on their 25-man roster for the complete following season. The team pays $100,000 for the right to draft the player and receives $50,000 back, if the player is returned. One of the positives and source of merriment from the player’s perspective is that, salary wise, they go from making Rookie Ball or Single-A money, to a possible major-league paycheck of at least the major-league minimum, which is currently $535,000.
The San Diego Padres, over the years, have utilized the Rule-5 draft to acquire many players that have successfully become part of the organization. Most recently, in an unprecedented move, Padres General Manager, A.J. Preller, has brazenly used the last two years of the draft (Dec 2015 and Dec 2016) to help replenish the farm system and bring in many young players that the Padres’ scouts have deemed to have much upside.
At no time in major league history has a club taken seven players in two consecutive years. Additionally, it is also unprecedented in major league history that a team took the top three picks in the draft, which San Diego accomplished in December 2016, utilizing trade maneuvers with various clubs to acquire the top two spots while owning the third draft spot outright. (“Padres Dominate Rule 5 Draft”, J.J. Cooper, Baseball America, Dec 8, 2016).
From the 2015 draft, the Padres received right-handed pitcher Luis Perdomo, outfielder Jabari Blash, right-handed Pitcher Josh Martin, and right-handed pitcher Blake Smith. Josh Martin and Blake Smith were both returned to their respective clubs in April 2016. Luis Perdomo and Jabari Blash, however, remain with the club and continue to develop. Perdomo, who is 23 years old, had a serviceable season for his age throughout 2015 and displayed promising traits of what is to come.
Blash, contrastingly, was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, and the Seattle Mariners refused his return. Therefore, the Padres were clear to utilize him in their minor-league system during 2016. Blash also received 84 plate appearances that same year in the bigs, giving the organization an opportunity to assess his skills. Currently, Blash is in the San Diego Padres’ Minor-League system after having a great spring training in which he “Blashed” seven home runs in 58 AB’s, driving in 19 runs (April 2017).
At the beginning of the 2017 season, the record-setting class of the Rule-5 draft from December, 2016 have all made the 25-man roster. This makes the San Diego Padres one of the youngest teams in the majors currently. Right-handed pitcher Miguel Diaz (22 years), catcher Luis Torrens (20 years), and shortstop Allen Cordoba (21 years) are all getting a shot to play at the Major-League level.
Preller was happy with his haul from this class. “They’re all guys that our scouting group really likes, guys we’ve been tracking for a while now. We got three additions today that we liked, and we’re excited about.” (MLB.com) If these players remain on the Padres’ Major League roster for the entire season, Preller will have successfully added additional young top prospects, consequently redefining the rules to building a program and maybe altering the way other clubs view the Rule-5 draft in the future.
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