The Rule 5 draft just went down. None of the picks seem all that exciting or interesting to me, but here are two fun things I learned about it in the past 12 hours:
As you probably know, players selected in the Rule 5 draft have to remain on the 25-man roster all season after being selected. If not, they are offered back to their original team at a nominal fee. Lots of teams find out that they really can’t carry their Rule 5 selectees on the roster, but do want to keep them in the organization. So, historically, a lot of Rule 5 draftees find themselves “injured” at some point early in the season and wind up on the disabled list, where they (a) don’t take up a roster spot; but (b) aren’t subject to being taken back by their old team.
I spoke with a team official last night about all of this, and he told me that the good old days of hiding guys on the DL with phantom injuries is over. MLB sent a memo out to the entire league telling them that they will be checking out Rule 5s who are disabled to make sure it’s legit. So, sadly, we may see a lot less “dead arm” and tendinitis this year.
Second fun thing: I asked the same team official about their plans for the Rule 5. Specifically, how one goes about identifying minor league Rule 5 guys who no one has ever heard of. After talking about how great their scouts are and how hard everyone works, the team official said: “we are about 90% sure that a guy we’re looking at in the late rounds actually exists.”
I think he was joking. Almost positive he was joking. OK, he may not have been joking.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.