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How the Rule 5 draft works, and which players might the Tigers add to the roster?

November 15 is the deadline for roster additions for protection from the Rule 5 draft

Detroit Tigers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

One of the casualties of the owners’ 99 day lockout of the players last winter was the 2021 edition of the Rule 5 draft. Baseball’s winter meetings were canceled, while an owner imposed moratorium on teams signing free agent players was in place, and so there was no Rule 5 draft last off season. .

The lack of a draft doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a larger class of players eligible this year, however, as teams had already made their roster additions in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft before the lockout.

The Detroit Tigers added Kody Clemens and Angel DeJesus to the 40 man roster, both of them appearing in Detroit during the 2022 season. The club also added Elvin Rodriguez, who would have been a minor league free agent, to the roster earlier in the month.

How the Rule 5 draft works

Major League Baseball teams must submit their 40-man rosters, called “reserve lists” by November 15 in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. Players who have not been added to a 40 man roster and have accrued enough service time since they signed their first professional contract will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft, which will take place in San Diego at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.

A club must have space on their 40-man roster on draft day in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft. Players can be non-tendered or waived to create space before the draft. However, players may not be added after November 15 unless they are acquired from another team or signed as a free agent. Teams will often remove players from the 40-man roster at this time to make room for prospects, rather than waiting to non-tender them a few days later. The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players is November 18 this year.

Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft will have an opportunity to stay with their new club for the 2023 season. The player’s former club will receive a $100,000 fee. Players selected must be kept on their new team’s 25-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. As an example, pitcher Will Vest was taken from the Tigers by the Seattle Mariners, made his MLB debut, and was returned to Detroit, where he pitched significant innings in the Tigers’ bullpen in 2022.

A Rule 5 Draft pick can be placed on the Major League injured list, but he must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid being subject to the aforementioned roster restrictions in the next campaign.

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.

Players who have accrued six years in the minor leagues are eligible for minor league free agency immediately after the season, and never make it to the Rule 5 draft. Such was the case with pitcher Elvin Rodriguez, who was added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster last November.

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.

The Detroit Tigers have a full 40 man roster following their latest round of cuts and free agent departures, but that situation is in a constant state of flux as they make room for waiver claims, activating players from the 60 day injured list and will do the same to add some prospects to the roster for protection in advance of the Rule 5 draft.

In the last Rule 5 draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Akil Baddoo from the Minnesota Twins’ farm system with the third selection in 2020. Despite the lockout cancelling the major league portion of the Rule 5 in 2021, the Tigers did pick up hard-throwing right-handed reliever Elvis Alvarado in the minor league portion. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man shortly or he’ll be eligible for other teams to claim in this year’s edition of the Rule 5 draft.

Way back in 2017, the Tigers chose Victor Reyes with the first overall pick, and he managed to stick on the roster until the club released him this week. Reyes went unclaimed and has elected free agency. The 28-year-old outfielder was worth exactly 1 WAR in his career with the Tigers according to Baseball Reference. That is a Rule 5 success story, so keep in mind that these decisions are rarely very impactful.

This year, the Tigers will have the sixth selection. Once rosters are set we’ll take a look at the talent available for Scott Harris and his new front office to consider. The real intrigue usually lies in who a team chooses to protect from or expose to the draft, rather than who they select in the draft itself.

Activating the 60-day injured list

On Thursday, the Detroit Tigers reinstated all ten players from the 60-day injured list. Each takes a 40-man roster spot, forcing the Tigers to trim other players from the end of the roster.

RHP Spencer Turnbull

RHP Casey Mize

LHP Tarik Skubal

RHP Matt Manning

LF Austin Meadows

RHP Kyle Funkhouser

RHP Beau Brieske

RHP Rony Garcia

LHP Sean Guenther

C Jake Rogers

Seven players have already been cut from the end of season 40-man roster, while reliever Andrew Chafin opted for free agency as expected. OF Daz Cameron, OF Victor Reyes, RHP Elvin Rodriguez, RHP Bryan Garcia, IF Jermaine Palacios, IF Josh Lester, RHP Luis Castillo, IF Luis Garcia have all been claimed or outrighted from the 40-man roster already. Cameron was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles, while 22-year-old infielder Luis Garcia doesn’t yet qualify for minor league free agency, and will stay in the Tigers system for another season. Castillo and Rodriguez have already elected free agency.

The Tigers also claimed veteran minor league infielder Andy Ibanez from the Texas Rangers this week. He’ll need a 40-man spot as well if they want to keep him. Still the Tigers need at least three more cuts from their major league roster just to keep all their returnees from the 60-day. However, it’s entirely possible that they won’t keep them all.

With Kyle Funkhouser still just working his way back from shoulder trouble that cost him all of the 2022 season, he’s unlikely to be tendered a major league contract. Guenther is a recent addition, selected off waivers from the Miami Marlins back on November 2. Like Funkhouser, the lefty is coming back from an injury plagued season, but unlike Funkhouser, doesn’t have much big league experience. Rony Garcia is another former Rule 5 pick who was pretty impressive with an upgraded arsenal at times this season, but was again hampered by injuries.

Should the Tigers elect to release those three from the 40-man, they’re pretty well set up heading into Tuesday’s deadline to finalize the roster. They’ll still need at least 3-4 cuts to open a spot with which to claim a player in the Rule 5 draft, and more importantly, they’ve got several quality prospects that need to be protected as well.

Who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft?

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 Rule 5 draft is conducted on the last day of MLB’s annual Winter Meetings each year pursuant to Major League Rule 5.

Players eligible this year include:

  • Those who were drafted and signed their first pro contract in 2019, or
  • Those who first signed in 2018 but were under the age of 19 at the time.
  • Essentially, this includes players who were drafted out of college in 2019 and international free agents or high school draftees who were signed before the end of the 2018 season. Players who were eligible in previous years are also eligible again, if they’re not on the team’s reserve list.

Who will the Tigers protect?

Following is the full list of the other players in the Tigers’ organization who are Rule 5.

The 2019 draft included college draftees Riley Greene, Nick Quintana, Andre Lipcius, Austin Bergner, and Ryan Kreidler. Greene and Kreidler are on the 40 man roster and have MLB experience. Quintana was dealt to the Reds for catcher Tucker Barnhart.

Casey Mize and Kody Clemens were collegiate players drafted in 2018 who would have been eligible a year ago and have been on the roster. High school draftees Parker Meadows, who was picked by the Tigers in the second round of the 2018 draft, and RHP Reese Olson, who was selected out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers before coming to Detroit in exchange for Daniel Norris in 2021.

International free agents who were signed as teenagers in 2018 are also eligible. This includes infielder Wenceel Perez, who the Tigers signed as an international free agent, and hard-throwing RHP Elvis Alvarado, who was initially signed as a teenager by the Washington Nationals before being traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2019. The Tigers selected him in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2021.

Reese Olson and Parker Meadows are both among the Tigers top 10 prospects and coming off of strong years in the organization at the Double-A level. They’ll both be protected. Austin Bergner may prove to be a decent depth starter, but doesn’t really profile as a future major league starter. He won’t be protected.

Lipcius is more of a question mark. He’s an interesting infielder with traits Harris will appreciate in terms of his plate discipline and leadership. Still, there isn’t much wow factor there as a prospect, and Harris likely won’t see him as anything more than a possible role player.

Perez is also a good bet to be added to the 40-man after a year in which he finally broke out in the power department, while Alvarado remains a bit more of a relief project and will probably have to really catch Scott Harris’ eye in terms of stuff and metrics in order to be protected.

Considering that Harris really loves to churn the back end of the 40-man roster, we’ll bet on Meadows and Olson getting the nod. Perez seems likely to be protected but isn’t a lock, while Lipcius, Bergner, and Alvarado probably will be available in the Rule 5 draft to other teams.

The Tigers 40-man roster is going to see several more cuts in the coming days in order to protect their prospect talent. A perusal of the current roster shows numerous players the Tigers could comfortably part ways with. We’ll get an idea of who Scott Harris and the new Tigers’ front office values most along the way.