Owens, Moreno not Rule 5 eligible

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Contrary to what I wrote yesterday, Rudy Owens and Diego Moreno will not be Rule 5 eligible in December if they are left off the 40-man roster. I got some clarification today as to why and will try to explain that in as simple terms as possible to you here. We’ll look at each case individually:

Rudy Owens

Owens was drafted in 2006 at the age of 18 (his birthday is Dec. 18, 1987). He was a draft-and-follow, meaning the Pirates didn’t have to sign him that summer. In fact, the club didn’t sign Owens until May 30, 2007.

Now typically, players who sign their contracts when they are 18 have five years before they can become Rule 5 eligible. Players who sign at 19 or older have four years of eligibility. I understood that to mean that since Owens had turned 19 by the time he signed in 2007, he had four seasons to work with — 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 — before being eligible.

As it turns out, it doesn’t matter how old Owens was when he actually signed the piece of paper. All that matters is how old Owens was as of the June 5 before he signed. That would have been June 5, 2006, and at the time, Owens was still 18. This means that when he signed almost a year later, he was still granted five years before being Rule 5 eligible. And since he didn’t sign until 2007, those five years didn’t begin until then.

All this means Owens has one more season before he must be added to the 40-man roster.

Diego Moreno

Moreno’s situation is plenty tricky, too. He signed as a non-drafted free agent on August 21, 2006, at the age of 19. That made it seem pretty cut-and-dry that he would be Rule 5 eligible after four seasons (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010). As it turns out, that’s not the case.

Moreno turned 19 on July 21, 2006. This is key because it means that on June 5 of the year he was signed, Moreno was still 18 years old. And, just like it was with Owens, it doesn’t matter how old Moreno was when he formally signed (19), but how old he was on the June 5 before he signed (18). That grants him five years before Rule 5 eligibility and not four.

There’s one more catch. Since the Venezuelan Summer League had ended by the time Moreno signed in 2006, ’06 does not count against those years. So, like Owens, Moreno’s five years didn’t actually begin until 2007. That means he, too, has one year left before being Rule 5 eligible.


I’m not expecting this to be easy to digest, but hopefully you can make some sense of the technicalities. For the Pirates, all this is good because it means that the club does not need to make room for either pitcher on the 40-man roster next week. For us, it’s just another reminder that baseball has some very technical rules.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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