When the Chicago Cubs picked up a player to be named later from the Oakland A’s this past Summer in the Samardzija/Hammel deal, there was quite a bit of disconnect in the reporting about whether that player was going to be a legit prospect, or just another name thrown into the trade. With the Rule 5 Draft on tap today at 11am CT, I’m thinking the PTBNL probably isn’t a big-time prospect.
How do I land there? Well, having waited to decide on the PTBNL until after the Rule 5 Draft, I’m guessing that the list of players from which the Cubs are choosing is comprised of guys who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, but who were not protected by Oakland. Thus, if they make it through the draft unscathed, the Cubs will take whichever guy they want (and won’t then have to risk losing the guy, themselves). Because guys who are eligible for the Rule 5 are typically added to the 40-man roster by their home team if they’re a big-time prospect, that’s how I land on the idea that what the Cubs will get is probably not a huge prospect. Could be a good name, though. And it’s also possible that the Cubs are getting a quality, 40-man prospect, but wanted to wait until after the Rule 5 Draft to complete the trade for roster management purposes. It’s possible. Don’t get your hopes up.
Either way, I do think the PTBNL (or cash) will be sent to the Cubs right after the Rule 5 Draft today, or soon thereafter. Once the draft passes, there’s not really much more reason to keep waiting. Indeed, Carrie Muskat also reports that this is the expectation.
Similarly, the Cubs owe a PTBNL to the Red Sox for Felix Doubront, and I think all of that stuff I wrote up there applies to that transaction as well. The Cubs have some interesting unprotected Rule 5 guys, so the Red Sox are probably going to get a decent prospect today from the Cubs. Brace yourself for that.
Speaking of which, here are some of the Cubs’ notable unprotected players, who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft today (and from which I’m taking a guess that the Red Sox will ultimately choose, once the draft is complete):
Gioskar Amaya, INF
John Andreoli, OF
Jeffrey Baez, OF
Zach Cates, RHP
Hunter Cervenka, LHP
Pin-Chieh Chen, OF
Gerardo Concepcion, LHP
Willson Contreras, C
Wes Darvill, INF
Dustin Geiger, INF
Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
Marco Hernandez, INF
Matt Loosen, RHP
Dillon Maples, RHP
Andrew McKirahan, LHP
Carlos Penalver, INF
Felix Pena, RHP
Ivan Pineyro, RHP
Rock Shoulders, 1B
Rubi Silva, OF
Yao-Lin Wang, RHP
Ben Wells, RHP
Tony Zych, RHP
You can see the full list of eligible Cubs players over at The Cub Reporter. Be it by way of the draft or the PTBNL, I fear that the Cubs won’t be leaving the day still having both Jeffrey Baez and Ivan Pineyro. I like those guys, among others. I don’t think Baez would be taken in the Rule 5, given his youth, but I could see the Red Sox wanting him.
Recall, the Rule 5 Draft works just like a regular draft – it goes by reverse standings from 2014, so the Cubs would pick 9th – though many, many teams will not make a selection at all. If a player is picked, the selecting team has to send $50,000 to the old team for the privilege, must immediately place the player on the 40-man roster, and then has to carry the player on the 25-man roster all season (up to 90 days of which can be on the DL (though if you play too many games with that, you can be punished, as it looks like the Cubs were last year for Lendy Castillo) if they want to keep him. If the player isn’t kept on the 25-man roster, he must be offered back to his original team for $25,000.
There are also minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft, which rarely yield interesting names because of how (relatively) easy it is to protect useful prospects in those phases.
Baseball America has a great preview piece with tons of interesting names for the Major League phase of the draft this year. The three Cubs prospects who are named are ones you probably would expect if you follow this stuff: Andrew McKirahan (a promising power lefty reliever, the kind who can not only stick on a roster but possibly contribute), and Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez (promising infielders, but who haven’t played above High-A, and would be pure stashes if they were grabbed). McKirahan is listed as one of the top ten players available in the draft.
Keep in mind: when the Cubs plucked Hector Rondon from the Indians in the Rule 5 a couple years ago, he wasn’t really on any kind of preview list before the draft (he was recovering from a second elbow injury). These things are really hard to project, because of the sheer volume of available players, the wide variance in the views on this caliber of player (i.e., not a top prospect), and the idiosyncrasies of the teams involved. The Cubs’ scouting staff simply crushed it with the Rondon pick and the quiet work that led up to it.
I would tentatively expect the Cubs will not be selecting a player this year. Not only is it going to be tougher for a competitive Cubs team to carry a player all year on the 25-man roster, 40-man spots on such a young, emerging team are at a premium.
As for losing players, I could see a few guys at serious risk, but, again, there are dozens and dozens of interesting guys all around the league of a similar caliber. It’s kind of flukey which ones get picked, and which ones don’t. Also, as we’ve seen recently with Marcos Mateo and Starling Peralta, just because someone gets picked today doesn’t mean the Cubs will lose them for good. Then again, the Cubs lost Marwin Gonzalez a couple years ago, even though he looked too green to stick all year in the bigs – the Astros stashed him, and now they have a nice player.