Today marks the deadline for teams to add in-house players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the December 8 Rule Five Draft (December 1 is the deadline to have in-house players off the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule Five Draft), and the Cubs added four prospects: infielders Josh Vitters and Junior Lake, outfielder Matt Szczur, and pitcher Jeff Beliveau. The Cubs also outrighted three players off of the 40-man to open up additional spots: outfielder Lou Montanez, and pitchers Esmailin Caridad and Kyle Smit.
Lake, 21, and Vitters, 22, each played well in the recently-ended Arizona Fall League, and will have a chance to contribute to the Cubs in 2012. Beliveau, 24, also pitched in the AFL, after a stint with Team USA, and will have an excellent chance to make the Cubs’ bullpen out of Spring Training. Szczur, 22, was added to the 40-man because of a contractual quirk in the way the Cubs signed him (to forgo a football career, Szczur technically signed two contracts with the Cubs), which would have made him eligible for the Rule Five Draft, a couple years earlier than he otherwise would have been. It’s possible he could see some big league action in the second half of 2012, but 2013 is more likely (on the early side).
Montanez came to the Cubs on a minor league deal (after spending some time with the Cubs’ B-team squad in Baltimore) at the beginning of the year, and didn’t do much with his opportunities in the bigs this year. Caridad couldn’t overcome arm troubles, and Smit, who came to the Cubs in the Ted Lilly/Ryan Theriot trade last year, didn’t make any noise in the minors, much less the bigs.
The moves leave the Cubs’ 40-man roster at a surprisingly low 34 (and will sink lower after Koyie Hill is non-tendered), which is probably reflective of two things: (1) Cubs’ brass expects a fair bit of roster turnover this Winter, and (2) Cubs’ brass (the new guys) aren’t terribly worried about losing some marginal prospects in the Rule Five Draft.
There is some scuttlebutt in the Cublogoverse about the Cubs leaving utility infielder – and probable 2012 contributor – Ryan Flaherty off the roster. By my calculation, Flaherty is not yet eligible for the Rule Five Draft. Players signed at age 19 or older are not eligible until they’ve been in the organization for at least four years. Flaherty, 25, was signed in August 2008, which means he’s been in the organization only a little over three years, and is thus not eligible for the Rule Five Draft. Maybe I’m missing something, but that’s how I do the math.
UPDATE: I’ve been racking my brain about this, because I want to get the Ryan Flaherty issue right. There are a million secondary sources that lay out the “rules” for the Rule Five Draft, but, for whatever reason, finding those rules is not quite like finding a copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the “Basic Agreement”) or MLB’s Rules. Still, I found what I was looking for, and here’s why Flaherty IS eligible for the Rule Five draft. The rule doesn’t say a player isn’t eligible until four years after he was signed (if signed at age 19 or older), as all the secondhand sources say. The rule says a player is eligible at the fourth Rule Five Draft after he was signed. So, if a kid signed in August 2008, that means he’s eligible at the 2011 draft (that’s the fourth draft after he was signed). Hence, Flaherty is eligible, and the Cubs’ decision to leave him unprotected is quite curious. Boston compensation?