It’s an interesting moment for the Rule 5 Draft. Typically, we’re so crazed from the feverish pace of the Winter Meetings that the draft, which comes at the tail end, is necessarily squeezed into coverage. Moreover, with the Cubs competing at a high level the last few years, the draft hasn’t exactly been a likely moment for the Cubs to pluck a talent.
This year’s installment? Well, it comes at the end of a relative snoozer of a Winter Meetings, and it comes at a time when the Cubs’ fiscal policy is such that they really might try to snag – for example – a reliever. The risk is only a modest $100,000 fee for the selection, half of which you can get back if the player’s team wants him back later on and you decide not to keep him.
For the Cubs, then, they could grab a hail mary reliever, bring the guy to Spring Training, and see if he could put it together enough to stick in the bullpen for a little while. There are plenty of fireballers who aren’t protected this year because they haven’t figured out their command yet or haven’t pitched at a high level (or both). It’s a total roll of the dice with very low odds of hitting, but also very little downside risk.
Remember: after selected, if you actually want to keep a guy, he has to be on your active 25-man roster for at least 90 days in that following season.
The Cubs are currently set to pick about 20th (I say “about” because you can’t pick if your 40-man roster is full, and it’s possible that some of the teams with full rosters ahead of the Cubs will dump a guy at the last minute so they can pick). The Cubs can always try to work a trade with someone ahead of them, though – you often see teams send a little cash to a team with a high pick if that team isn’t going to use it for themselves.
It is unlikely the Cubs will lose any prospects in the big league portion of the draft this year, but you never know. Sometimes there are surprises, like last year when the Orioles snagged A-ball reliever Pedro Araujo, who was clearly not ready for the big leagues. (He struggled badly, was injured, and is in limbo right now, because he didn’t yet get enough time on the active roster to be permanently with the Orioles. If at any point the Orioles decide to de-roster him, the Cubs could get him back.)
After the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which is basically the same as the big league phase except the fee is lower ($24,000), and when you select a guy, he’s yours without any roster restrictions. But because everyone on the 40-man is protected in the minor league phase AND everyone on the attendant minor league rosters, the pickens are very slim.
The Rule 5 Draft begins at 11 am CT, and we’ll note any Cubs-related activity below.
UPDATE: No pick for the Cubs in the big league phase, and no prospects lost. So, unless they pre-arranged a trade for a player earlier selected, there will be no Rule 5’er for the Cubs this year.
UPDATE 2: In the minor league phase, the Cubs lost reliever David Garner, who you may recall as a Spring Training darling a couple years ago, but who didn’t get a shot with the big league team (in part because of a suspension). The Cubs also lost 25-year-old lefty Yapson Gomez, who hadn’t pitched above High-A.
The Cubs selected lefty Luis Lugo, 24, from the Royals in the minor league phase, so he’s theirs. He was a long-time Indians farmhand with middling results as a starter. Must have had an injury of some kind last year, because he didn’t pitch much.
The Cubs also selected catcher Rafelin Lorenzo, 21, from the Pirates. He hasn’t played a lot in his young career, only just reaching A-ball last year for a taste (the Pirates had taken him from the Rays a couple years earlier in the Rule 5). There, he posted a 1.1% walk rate, so that’s a fun aside.
The Cubs also selected 21-year-old righty Alexander Vargas from the Yankees. He hasn’t thrown meaningful innings above A-ball yet, though he does seem to be an EXTREME control guy (his walk rate is frequently in the 3% range).