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MLB Winter Meetings: Rule 5 Draft

During the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 draft is the capstone event. However, most fans have a difficult time understanding what the Rule 5 draft is—including me. Therefore, being the studious type, I have decided to write a mini research paper on the Rule 5 draft.

I promise I will try to make this as easy to read as possible.

Disclaimer: Most of this information is directly from the MLB website. I am just reducing the amount of reading material so you can read this before you even finish your cup of coffee.

Put simply, the purpose of the Rule 5 draft is to inhibit teams from amassing or “stockpiling” young players when other teams are willing to give them a shot at the Major League level.

Eligibility: Any player not active on a team’s 40-man roster and, according to the MLB’s website, “who signed with their current club at age 18 or younger and have played professionally for at least five years are eligible to be selected, as are those who signed at 19 or older and have at least four years of professional experience.” To make it simple, anyone who was drafted out of high school in 2015 or before and college players from 2016 are also eligible—if not added to their affiliate’s 40-man roster.

If a team does not have an open spot on their 40-man roster, they cannot participate in the draft. Currently, the Mariners have 35 players on the 40-man roster. More on that will be covered later.

A team must keep the Rule 5 player on their 26-man roster for a full season otherwise; they must offer him back to the previous team.

It gets somewhat convoluted because each player costs a certain amount of money, $100,000, to add them to their active roster. If they do not play a full year on the active roster, they must sell back to the previous team for $50,000. According to Draftsite.com, “A team can also draft a player from AA or lower to play for their AAA affiliates at $12,000, as well a player from single-A to play for their double AA affiliate at $4,000. The Rule 5 draft offers an opportunity for young players to prove themselves at the highest level.”

Draft order: Based on a team’s win/loss record.

Notable selection: Seahawk’s QB Russell Wilson was selected by the Texas Rangers in 2013 as a result of the Rule 5 draft.

Last season, the Mariners picked up RHP Brandon Brennan from the Rockies, while giving up CF Chuck Taylor (Nationals), RHP Adonis De La Cruz (Yankees), and RHP Chris Mazza (Mets).

Two notable players the Mariners will likely add to their roster before the November 20th deadline are Ljay Newsome and Dom Thompson-Williams. They are both top 30 in the Mariners’ pipeline.

Newsome was drafted by the Mariners in the 26th round of the MLB Amateur Draft in 2015 out of high school. In 2019, he posted a 3.54 ERA striking out 169 batters in 155 innings pitched. Thompson-Williams came over to the Mariners with Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson from the Yankees as a part of the James Paxton trade in 2018. He is currently the 24th ranked prospect in the Mariners’ pipeline.

As mentioned earlier, the Mariners have 35 spots filled on their 40-man roster and the deadline is November 20th at 8 PM Eastern Time. I would expect that 35 to jump up to 38 or 39 by adding players affected by Rule 5.

This would allow one or two roster spots available for, what I would guess, pitching.

Could the Mariners outright players from the 40-man to the minors? It gets tricky. They could, however, the Mariners have quite a bit of talent on their 40-man roster at a very low cost, making it lucrative for another team to swoop in and take the player since the new team would assume that contract. Since Jerry Dipoto has improved the farm system from the pit of despair it was, I personally don’t think he would outright any players currently on the 40-man roster to waivers.

It would be in the teams best interest to trade, due to the level of talent on the roster.

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