Russell Wilson — yes that one — and 44 players you’ve never heard of taken in Rule 5 draft

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The Rule 5 draft took place this morning. It’s traditionally the last thing that happens at the Winter Meetings, so there’s a bittersweet element to it I suppose. We all have to go home today. We all get to go home today. It’s like any vacation story I suppose.

It’s not a terribly interesting event in and of itself, however. It moves quickly. Most “rounds” as it were involve teams passing on a selection. As it is limited to players who (a) have a good amount of minor league service time; but (b) are still not on their club’s 40-man roster, the vast majority of names of available and selected players are anonymous to all but the most hardcore fans and/or prospect watchers.

Of course there are some notable historical exceptions. Johan Santana was a Rule 5 guy once upon a time. As was Josh Hamilton and Shane Victorino and Dan Uggla. But finding good major league regulars in the Rule 5 is pretty rare. And they have to be good enough to be major leaguers at least, because anyone who selects a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft has to keep them on their big league roster — the 25-man roster, not the 40-man — all year or else he is returned to his original club. Of course teams can and often do DL Rule 5 guys with dubious injuries in order to stash them, but that’s another topic altogether.

In any event, 45 guys were selected in the Rule 5 draft this morning. Only nine of those were in the major league portion:

  • The Astros drafted lefty Patrick Schuster from the Diamondbacks;
  • The White Sox drafted catcher Adrian Nieto from the Nationals;
  • The Phillies drafted righty Kevin Munson from the Diamondbacks;
  • The Rockies drafted righty Tommy Kahnle from the Yankees;
  • The Blue Jays drafted lefty Brian Moran from the Phillies;
  • The Brewers drafted lefty Wei-Chung Wang from the Pirates;
  • The Diamondbacks drafted righty Marcos Mateo from the Cubs; and
  • The Orioles drafted third baseman Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox

Beyond that? a lot of minor league selections of no real note. Save one: Russell Wilson. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks QB. He was a second baseman in the Rockies system once upon a time. And though his baseball days are clearly over, the Texas Rangers selected him. Why? According go Ken Rosenthal of Fox, the Rangers want him in-house, in effect, to give motivational speeches and stuff next spring. For real.

Which, when you look at the value of most of the Rule 5 picks, you realize is not all that bad use of these particular resources.

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.