Wednesday, November 20 is the deadline for major league teams to add players in their organization to their 40 man rosters who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, in order to protect those players from being drafted by another club. Here is a quick review of how the Rule 5 draft works.
Once a player signs his first professional contract, he has either four or five years before he is eligible to be selected by another team in the Rule 5 draft. If the player is signed before age 19, he is protected for five years. Otherwise, he’s protected for four years. To count the years, just count the number of rule 5 drafts that have taken place since the player was signed.
The Rule 5 draft takes place every year on the last day of the winter meetings, which this year falls on December 12, in Orlando, Florida. Any player who is eligible but is not on a 40 man roster can be selected. After November 20, players can be removed from the 40 man roster, but they can not be added unless they are acquired from an other organization in the interim. Clubs must submit their protected 40 man rosters by November 20 each year.
Any player claimed in the Rule 5 draft must remain on the major league roster of the claiming team for the next full season, or pass through waivers before being sent to the minors. For that reason, it’s easier to sneak a player through the Rule 5 draft than it is to clear waivers if the player has to be removed from the roster later on. Clubs don’t typically add players prior to the Rule 5 draft only to remove them shortly after, when another player is added. If they're added to the roster, you can expect them to remain for at least a season.
The type of player who is added is typically a 22 year old who was drafted out of high school, or a bit older if drafted out of college, or a 20 year old prospect who was signed as a 16 year old international free agent, such as Hernan Perez. Players who have been in the minor leagues for six years or more and are not on a 40 man roster are eligible to become minor league free agents.
Last year, the Tigers added reliever Bruce Rondon, as well as reliever Melvin Mercedes and shortstop Dixon Machado to the roster on November 20. For a full list of the players who are eligible for the rule 5 draft, Eddie Bajek keeps this very excellent database on the entire Tiger organization, including this list of the players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year.
Among those likely to be added to the Tiger roster are outfielder Daniel Fields, son of Tigers' former coach and current minor league hitting instructor Bruce Fields, and shortstop Eugenio Suarez, pictured above. While some of the players added might make it through without being selected, the organization may not want to take the chance of losing them for basically nothing but the $50,000 transaction fee. Jordan Gorosh will be profiling some of the possible roster additions shortly.
Some notable major leaguers who were selected in past Rule 5 drafts include Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Bobby Bonilla, and Shane Victorino. Former Tiger players selected include Darrell Evans, Willie Hernandez, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Chris Shelton. Last year, the Tigers claimed Kyle Lobstein and Jeff Kobernus in the rule five draft. They later worked a trade for Lobstein, but returned Kobernus to the Washington Nationals after he did not make the team in Spring Training.
The Tigers have plenty of vacancies on the 40 man roster this year, thanks to the departure of eight free agent players plus Darin Downs, who was waived and claimed by the Houston Astros. There may be more vacancies before the draft on December 12, as players such as Don Kelly or Phil Coke might not be tendered contracts by the December 2nd deadline. The Tigers non-tendered Kelly as well as Ryan Raburn a year ago, and outrighted Tyler Stohr to the minors. Kelly was later resigned to a minor league contract and invited to spring training, where he made the team.
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