Preparing for and protecting from the Rule 5 Draft

Jenifer Langosch/

Clubs have until Wednesday to protect players from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft by adding them onto their 40-man roster. First and foremost for the Cardinals, that means putting Oscar Taveras on that roster. If the Cardinals were to leave him off, he would be snatched up immediately in the December Rule 5 Draft. But don’t worry. The Cardinals won’t let that happen.

Before getting into some roster specifics as it relates to the Cardinals, here is a refresher on the Rule 5 Draft and which players need protecting:

  • The Rule 5 Draft takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings, which, this year, falls on Dec. 12. That means that between Wednesday’s roster deadline and Dec. 12, clubs will not be permitted to add players from their Minor League rosters to the Major League one. Major League free agents, of course, can continue to be added.
  • Who is eligible? Players who signed at age 19 or older become Rule 5 eligible after four years. That means players signed out of college in the 2010 Draft are eligible for the draft for the first time this winter. A player who signs his first professional contract at age 18 or younger, has five years before becoming eligible. So players drafted out of high school in 2009 fit into this pool.
  • The Rule 5 Draft, as mentioned above, is scheduled for Dec. 12, in Orlando, Fla. The order of selection is based on the reverse won-loss record for each team this season. That means the Astros get the first selection… and the Cardinals will be the last organization to pick in each round. Teams must have an opening on their 40-man roster to make a selection. Teams are free to pass on making a pick if they prefer.
  • Any club that chooses a player in the Rule 5 Draft must pay the organization it plucked from $50,000. In order to be retained, that player then has to spend the next full season on the 25-man roster. If a team chooses not to make that commitment, that player must be offered back to his original team at a $25,000 cost.
  • There are also two Minor League portions of the Rule 5 Draft, which is why organizations will also set their Triple-A and Double-A reserve rosters by the end of the day Wednesday to protect players from being taken in those rounds.

Currently, the Cardinals have 36 players on their 40-man roster. That gives them the ability to add up to four Minor League players that they wish to protect. Should the Cardinals want to add more than that, they can clear additional space. An easy way of doing so would be removing any arbitration-eligible players to whom the Cardinals do not plan to tender a contract (i.e. John Axford and, perhaps, Fernando Salas).

So who else (like Taveras) is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year? This is not exhaustive, but the list includes names like Greg Garcia, Jordan Swagerty, Boone Whiting, Mike O’Neill, Dean Kiekhefer and Cody Stanley.

These are always interesting decisions by clubs and ones that can have huge payoffs — or create long-time regret — down the road. Consider that last year the Cardinals protected four players from the Rule 5 Draft: Keith Butler, Michael Blazek, Eric Fornataro and Kevin Siegrist. Three of those four contributed in the Major League bullpen this year. Blazek was flipped for Axford in August. And just imagine how different the bullpen complexion would have been without Siegrist. Last year, these moves warranted mere sentences. This year, their impact was readily seen.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB


I thought John Axford was worth keeping since he seemed to add to the team needs last season. But no one ever said I was baseball-smart.

Thank you, Jenifer, for the excellent and thorough analysis of the Rule 5 Draft situation. I had not realized the significance until recently. Thankfully, we protected Siegrist!!!

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