The Rule 5 Draft is one of the bigger agenda items at the Winter Meetings. Big in the sense that it’s in the biggest room they have here, everyone goes to it and, unlike so many of the other official events, it’s one of the things that people may talk about throughout the season when discussing actual baseball. As opposed to, you know, a seminar about how to maximize bobblehead promotion days. Of which there are many similar events this week.
But it’s also a pretty nothing-event in person. There is no Rule 5 Mel Kiper. There is no equivalent to those crazy Jets fans who scream at their team’s picks.I just left it. The Major League portion lasted less than 15 minutes. About half the teams passed, either because they already had 40 men on the roster or else because they didn’t see anyone who they thought could make the team. The minor league portion lasted another 25 minutes tops. The whole thing began at 9 AM. People started leaving the room at 9:38.
The Rule 5 is explained nicely here, but I think the most important thing for casual fans to know about it is that if you take someone, they have to stay on the big club all year or else they must be offered back to their old team for a pittance. Which is why so many Rule 5 picks wind up on the disabled list with phantom injuries in the middle of the season: “we don’t want this guy on the major league team anymore, but we sure would like to keep him around,” the teams think. And then suddenly the guy has tendinitis or dead arm or some non-specific bone bruise someplace and gets stashed on the DL. It’s uncanny, really.
As for the picks, I know stuff about exactly two of them: Scott Diamond, a lefty on the Braves AAA team went to the Twins. He was kind of nice to have around, but really, if he was anything special the Braves wouldn’t have left him unprotected. Also, the Nationals took the Mets’ Elvin Ramirez, a pitcher who supposedly throws really hard but doesn’t know where he’s throwing it. There are a lot of guys like that in this thing.
Later on someone who knows more about non-elite AAA roster talent (i.e. the guys who get picked) will do a summary and we’ll point it out for you. The upshot, though: no one around here thinks that there’s any kind of real talent in this year’s Rule 5, and almost everyone who gets picked will be forgotten about by everyone except the hardcore prospect trackers by the time we all get to the Orlando airport.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.