For years, it has been understood that teams play games with the disabled list when it comes to Rule 5 draft picks. Teams do this, of course, because carrying a “grab-and-stash” type youngster on the 25-man roster all year can be tough. Fortunately for those teams, a player must be active on the 25-man roster for only 90 days for the team to retain his rights. That means minor injuries tend to pop up a lot for Rule 5 draftees.
None of that is to say that the Chicago Cubs were definitively playing games with pitcher Lendy Castillo’s back/groin/arm/neck/fingernail injury in 2012 (I kid – I’m sure it was a specific injury that wasn’t discussed very much because the team wasn’t any good, and Castillo wasn’t either at the time). But, he was injured, and the Cubs ended up having him on the 25-man roster just long enough to get to keep him. The Phillies were undoubtedly pissed about losing Castillo, who was a converted infielder and hadn’t pitched above A-ball at the time the Cubs took him.
It appears that they filed some kind of grievance, because multiple reports (example here from Sahadev Sharma) today indicate that the Cubs have given the Phillies their pick in the Rule 5 Draft this year (4th overall) to settle a dispute. I seem to recall vague whispers of MLB cracking down on disabled list shenanigans for Rule 5 players a couple years ago, and maybe we’re now seeing an outgrowth of those whispers. The real shame of it is that Castillo didn’t really rebound last year for the Cubs in the minors, and is now a borderline non-prospect.
Keep in mind that the Cubs could still pick in the draft by way of a pre-arranged deal with another team (i.e., you pick this guy for us, trade him to us, we pay you $50,000). Bruce Miles says the Cubs unlikely to take a player anyway, so there may not be much of a loss here. If the Cubs genuinely do decide not to take a player by way of a trade, then they’ll simply get to use that extra 40-man roster spot (and then 25-man roster spot) at some other point this offseason. It always sucks to be limited, but there aren’t too many tears to shed today.
The Rule 5 Draft takes place next week at the Winter Meetings.