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.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.