Major League Baseball teams must submit their 40-man rosters by Friday, November 20 in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. The Detroit Tigers currently have 37 players on their 40-man roster following their latest free agent departures. Some of the Tigers’ top prospects will be eligible if they are not added to the 40-man roster by the deadline.
The Rule 5 draft is conducted on the last day of MLB’s annual Winter Meetings each year pursuant to Major League Rule 5. The players eligible to be selected are minor leaguers who have been with their organizations for four or five years, but are not on the team’s 40-man roster. The Tigers will select third in this year’s Rule 5 draft.
Who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft?
Players eligible this year include those who were drafted and signed their first pro contract in 2017, or those who first signed in 2016 but were under the age of 19 at the time. Essentially, this includes players who were drafted out of college in 2017 and international free agents or high school draftees who were signed before the end of the 2016 season. Players who were eligible in previous years are also eligible again, if they’re not on the team’s reserve list.
How does the Rule 5 draft work?
A club must have space on their 40-man roster on draft day in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft. A player can still be non-tendered or waived to create space before the draft. However, players may not be added after November 20 unless they are acquired from another team or signed as a free agent. There is a major league phase, a Triple-A phase, and a Double-A phase to the Rule 5 draft. Players who are signed as international free agents as teenagers are in a race against the clock to make the roster before being Rule 5 eligible.
Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft will have an opportunity to stay with their new club for the 2021 season. The player’s former club will receive a $100,000 fee. Players selected must be kept on their new team’s 26-man MLB roster for the entire season. They cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers and then being offered back to their former club for $50,000.
The Tigers selected pitcher Rony Garcia with the first Rule 5 selection in 2019. He made two starts in 15 appearances with an 8.14 ERA. He is now eligible to be optioned in 2021. Detroit chose Victor Reyes with the first pick in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, and kept him on the major league roster all season. In 2019 he was optioned to the minors without clearing waivers and is now a regular member of the major league team.
Players’ Rule 5 rights can be traded, as can players who are selected in the draft. A player is more likely to get through the Rule 5 draft than clearing waivers, so teams will not add players to the roster intending to take them off later
Who will the Tigers protect?
Matt Manning was selected in the first round in 2016, but he was taken out of high school and was under age 19 when he signed, so he will be eligible for the first time this year. Alex Faedo was the Tigers’ first round pick in 2017 out of Florida and is eligible for selection this year. Both of these top prospects are locks to be added to the Tigers’ 40 man roster.
Joey Wentz, who came to the Tigers from the Atlanta Braves in the trade for Shane Greene in 2019. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will begin the 2021 season on the injured list, but for now he will occupy a 40 man roster spot. If he were to be left unprotected and selected in the Rule 5 draft, his new team would need to keep him on the active roster for most of the season or have to repeat the process in 2022. Very likely he’ll be added to the roster as well.
Wenceel Perez was signed as a 16-year-old prospect in July 2016. As this will be his fifth Rule 5 draft since signing, he will be eligible for selection for the first time. He is the Tigers’ 16th ranked prospect by MLB.com but is just 21 years old and playing at Triple-A Toledo. The club would have to designate another player such as Sergio Alcantara to make room, so Wenceel is on the bubble for a 40 man roster spot.
Elvin Rodriguez was mentioned as a possible addition a year ago, but he was unprotected and was not selected. The 22 year old right handed pitcher was signed by the Angels as an international free agent in 2014, and dealt to the Tigers in the Justin Upton trade. Probably will have to run the gauntlet again.
Other noteworthy players eligible include Nolan Blackwood, Ulrich Bojarski, Angel De Jesus, Jason Foley, Wilkel Hernandez, Alex Lange, Gerson Moreno, Wladimir Pinto, Jake Robson, Logan Shore. Will Vest and Daniel Woodrow. Bet the under on any one of these players being protected, but the Tigers never fail to surprise us with their selections.
Once a player is added to the 40 man roster, they will begin to use up their three option years next spring unless they make the opening day roster and stay in the major leagues. Just over a month in the minor leagues buys the club another season before the player is eligible for free agency.
Which players could be cut to make room on the roster?
In 2019, the Tigers added six players to the roster to protect them: Isaac Paredes, Derek Hill, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser, Daz Cameron, and Anthony Castro. All of them played in Detroit during the 2020 season. All the roster moves to clear space had been made in October.
The Tigers have a number of marginal young players who could be designated for assignment, and most would likely clear waivers. The top ten include Sergio Alcantara, Jorge Bonifacio, Harold Castro, Travis Demeritte, Rony Garcia, Eric Haase, Derek Hill, John Schreiber, Zack Short, and Troy Stokes Jr.