Now that the Winter Meetings are underway, we have almost four days’ worth of transactions, rumors, posturing, and Giancarlo Stanton telling the Miami Marlins to jump off a bridge. When the dust settles on Thursday, however, the Rule 5 Draft will end the festivities, and I guess we will have to talk about that a bit.
The last great Rule 5 Draft pick for the Chicago Cubs was, of course, Hector Rondon, who was non-tendered last month and will likely not be re-signed. The Cubs also made their decisions on who to protect on their 40-man roster, including top pitching prospects Oscar De La Cruz and Adbert Alzolay, as well as super-utility prospect David Bote. It makes sense to protect them because of how useful they could be to the big league team very soon, since other teams would also think they would be useful to their organization. Given that there are only so many spots on the roster to protect prospects with, and the need to keep some spots open for free agents and trades, the Cubs could only protect so many. The indispensable Arizona Phil has set up a handy-dandy list for us to peruse:
If one or two more are added, the most-likely candidates are (alphabetically) RHRP Pedro Araujo, OF Charcer Burks, RHSP Trevor Clifton, RHSP Erling Moreno, LHSP Jose Paulino, RHRP Jake Stinnett, INF Jason Vosler, and/or IF-OF Chesny Young. All it takes is one MLB organization to like a particular Rule 5 Draft-eligible player for the player to get selected, so the Cubs could very well lose one or more players this year.
With Brandon Morrow‘s signing almost imminent, the Cubs will be at 36 on their 40-man roster, with four spots left over to draft a Rule 5 player or sign some other relievers. Many of those names from Arizona Phil (seriously, he has to live forever or else we’ll never be as informed again) are among the Cubs’ top prospects, and there is a chance that they’ll be snagged away forever. However, it is entirely possible that no team would want to keep any of the Cubs’ unprotected prospects on their major league roster for the entire season, so some of them might sneak through the cracks. Being that the Cubs pick 24th in each round, by the time it gets to their term, most of the best picks will likely already have been made, so I don’t foresee the Cubs taking any Rule 5 players this year. The big thing to watch is in who them might lose.
I think the best news is that the prospects aren’t as can’t-miss as anyone would like, although of course the Cubs would want to keep them since they are so intriguing and still have plenty of upside. So again, perhaps other teams don’t want to bog down a roster spot for a shot at a lottery ticket. If the rosters are up to date, then rebuilding teams like the Tigers and Giants don’t have a lot of spots open right now, although that could change with designations for assignment and trades. Having rebuilding teams with full rosters helps the Cubs a bit, as contending teams (including the Cubs) will likely not want to waste a spot on an unproven player, while the more likely “bad” teams won’t have room to stash a Rule 5 guy anyway. But the risk of losing one of those unprotected prospects will linger until the Rule 5 Draft ends on Thursday.
Arizona Phil suggests that the Cubs are more likely to lose players in the minor league phase, and he notes that is how they lost Justin Bour to the Marlins a few years back. A lot of the names on that list are ones we have followed and have interest in, but are certainly expendable. Obviously you’d like to keep everyone, but the MLB roster rules are designed to ensure that teams can’t just hide prospects on the farm forever. So there is a chance that the Cubs may lose Trevor Clifton in the MLB phase and a few of the intriguing names in the minor league phase, which is a bummer. But perhaps they will get lucky and keep everyone they like.
UPDATE 12/14 11:09 AM:The full Rule 5 results are here The Cubs didn’t pick anyone, but did lose Pedro Araujo to Baltimore in the MLB phase and three prospects in the AAA phase. . It seemed that the Cubs knew what they were doing in leaving many of the intriguing arms unprotected after all.