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.
The best thing about minor Thanksgiving week transactions is that they are almost certainly done by GMs frantically looking for some work to do rather than go pick up their in-laws at the airport. I mean, sure, the player in question could very easily be an important player who fills a key role in the organization, but it’s not like it couldn’t have waited until Monday, right? This is the GM equivalent of you pretending you have to run into the office on Wednesday afternoon and, in reality, driving around in your car, listening to Neil Young and promising that NEXT YEAR you’re just doing a small Thanksgiving dinner with no family and, maybe, might even go on a little trip, just you and the wife.
Or is that just me? OK, maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, that’s how I’m choosing to view the Pirates activity today. First they traded for Allen Webster and now they’re signing minor league free agent first baseman/outfielder Jake Goebbert, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.
Goebbert, 28, hit .294 with an .844 OPS and 10 homers for Triple-A El Paso last season. He has 115 plate appearances in the bigs, all for San Diego in 2014. Overall he has a line of .282/.386/.465 with 30 homers in 997 Triple-A plate appearances in the Astros, Athletics and Padres organizations.
Not a bad depth move, especially given that the Pirates are looking to trade Pedro Alvarez and otherwise re-jigger their first base situation.
Matt Hague got a cup of coffee in Toronto this year after winning the International League MVP, but the 30-year-old first baseman/third baseman found a better opportunity in Japan and the Blue Jays have sold him to the Hanshin Tigers.
Hague hit .338 in 136 games at Triple-A this past season and is a career .301 hitter in eight minor-league seasons overall, but his lack of power limits his opportunities in the majors and he’s received a grand total of 91 plate appearances as a big leaguer.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Toronto Sportnet reports that the sale price for Hague is $300,000, which goes to the Blue Jays. And then Hague will no doubt sign a deal for a lot more than he could have earned at Triple-A and perhaps more than the MLB minimum salary.
The Arizona Diamondbacks just announced that have traded righty Allen Webster to the Pirates for cash considerations.
Webster, who turns 26 in February, was DFA’d by the Dbacks a few days ago. He pitched in nine games, starting five, in 2015, posting a 5.81 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 17/20 (eww) in 31 innings. Before that he pitched 89.1 innings for the Red Sox over two years with numbers not too terribly more impressive than that.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees “have let teams know Ivan Nova is available” in trade.
Nova returned from Tommy John elbow surgery in May to throw 94 innings with a 5.07 ERA and will be a free agent after the 2016 season, so it’s tough to imagine his trade market being particularly robust.
Despite that, Sherman writes that the Yankees “are not selling low” on Nova and might try to package him with other players to bring back a young starting pitcher under team control for multiple seasons. In other words, they’d like to trade Nova for a pitcher who can step into his rotation spot in 2016 and beyond.
Nova has had some good years in New York, but he’s 29 years old with a career 4.33 ERA and just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s more middle-of-the-rotation starter than front-line starter and even that might be in question following elbow surgery.