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 Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.