In three weeks, from December 8-11, front office personnel from the 30 major league teams will converge on San Diego for the 2014 Winter Meetings for the annual flurry of activity. On the last day of the Winter Meetings will be the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. In advance of that, however, clubs must set their 40-man rosters by this Thursday, November 20--thus tomorrow will be the last day to protect players from being subject to selection in the Rule 5 Draft.
With the signing of Russell Martin, the Blue Jays' 40-man roster is now full, meaning that that if they would like to protect players not currently on the roster, they would need to open up a spot today or tomorrow in order to add them. If they wish to pick someone in the draft from another team, they would need to open up a spot before December 11. Last season, the Blue Jays released Thad Weber (allowing him to sign in Korea) the day before the draft, during which they selected Brian Moran (who was immediately traded to the Angels for international cap space).
Fortunately, by virtue of the in-season promotions of Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey, both 2010 draftees out of high school, the Blue Jays have already protected the two prospects in their first-time eligible Rule 5 class who absolutely required protection. As will be discussed below, there are others who could, and perhaps should, be protected, but none are not shoo-ins like the duo above.
Primer on Major League Rule 5
But we should first go through a quick primer on Major League Rule 5. Its basic goal is to prevent teams from unduly stockpiling talent in the minors without giving the players a shot at the majors.
The timelines for Rule 5 eligibility are quite complex, but as a basic guideline, high school draftees and international free agents are first eligible four years after signing, with college players being eligible three years after signing (the actual division is based on age at signing, see this entry from 2012 for more details). For 2014, this means HS draftees and IFAs from 2010 and college players signed in 2011. In addition, all players who were previously Rule 5 eligible remain eligible, unless they are likewise added. This includes minor league free agents signed prior to the Rule 5 draft and former major leaguers who have been outrighted off the 40-man roster.
The draft itself consists of three phases: the major league phase, the triple-A phase, and the double-A phase. In the major league phase, major league teams can select eligible players from other organizations who are not on a 40-man roster for $50,000. That chosen player would have to remain on the 25-man (active) roster for the entire subsequent season, with a minimum of 90 active days, or be offered back to the original team. If the player fails to reach 90 active days, he will have to remain on the 25-man roster in subsequent seasons until he reaches an aggregate of 90 active days. The minor league phases of the draft is much less important and generally is just used to fill out rosters.
Rule 5-Eligible Players
Below are tables showing the Jays' 2014 first time eligible players not currently on the 40-man and their previously eligible players, as well as some pertinent info (minor league levels are only those within the Jays system):
2014 First-Time Eligible Players
|Jon Berti||SS||1/22/1990||24||2011 Draft (18)||AA||A+||A/A+|
|Andy Burns||SS||8/7/1990||24||2011 Draft (11)||$250,000||AA||AA/A+||A|
|Adonys Cardona||RHP||1/16/1994||20||2010 IFA||$2,800,000||A||Rk||Rk|
|Gabriel Cenas||3B||10/16/1993||21||2010 IFA||$750,000||Rk||Rk||Rk|
|Taylor Cole||RHP||8/20/1989||25||2011 Draft (29)||$50,000||A+/AA||A/A+||A-|
|Seth Conner||C||1/29/1992||22||2010 Draft (41)||$100,000||A-/A||A/A-||Rk|
|Angel Gomez||RF||1/12/1992||22||2010 Draft (23)||Rk||Injured||Injured|
|Francisco Gracesqui||LHP||11/26/1991||22||2011 NDFA||$40,000||A/A-||Rk||Rk|
|Blake McFarland||RHP||2/2/1988||26||2011 NDFA||AA/A+||A+||A|
|Shane Opitz||SS||1/10/1992||22||2010 Draft (11)||$225,000||A+/Rk||A+/A||A|
|Arik Sikula||RHP||12/21/1988||25||2011 Draft (36)||A+/AA||A||A-|
|John Stilson||RHP||7/28/1990||24||2011 Draft (3)||$500,000||AAA||AAA/AA||A+/AA|
|Dickie Thon||SS||11/16/1991||22||2010 Draft (5)||$1,500,000||A||A-||Rk|
|Ben White||RHP||5/10/1989||25||2011 NDFA||A+/AA||A||A-|
2014 Previously Eligible Players
|Ricky Romero||LHP||11/6/1984||29||2005 Draft (1)||$2,400,000||AAA||AAA/MLB||MLB|
|Brad Glenn||OF||4/2/1987||27||2009 Draft (23)||AAA/MLB||AA/AAA||AA|
|Jack Murphy||C||4/6/1988||26||2009 Draft (31)||AA/AAA||AA/AAA||A+/AA|
|Kevin Nolan||SS||12/13/1987||26||2009 Draft (20)||AA/AAA||AA||A+|
|Sean Ochinko||C||10/21/1987||27||2009 Draft (11)||AA/AAA||AAA/AA||AA/A+|
|Ryan Schimpf||2B||4/11/1988||26||2009 Draft (5)||$155,700||AAA/AA||AA||A+/AA|
|Ryan Tepera||RHP||11/3/1987||27||2009 Draft (19)||AAA||AA||AA/A+|
|Tyler Ybarra||LHP||12/11/1989||24||2008 Draft (43)||$100,000||AA||A+||A|
|Danny Barnes||RHP||10/21/1989||25||2010 Draft (35)||A+||A+/Rk||A+/AA|
|Andy Fermin||2B||7/27/1989||25||2010 Draft (32)||AA/A+||A-||A|
|K.C. Hobson||1B||8/22/1990||24||2009 Draft (6)||$500,000||A+/AA||A+||A|
|Marcus Knecht||LF||6/21/1990||24||2010 Draft (3s)||$250,000||A+||A+||A+|
|Casey Lawrence||RHP||10/28/1987||27||2010 NDFA||AA||A+/AA||A+/AA|
|Griffin Murphy||LHP||1/16/1991||23||2010 Draft (2)||$800,000||A/A+||A||Rk/A-|
|Matt Newman||LF||9/20/1988||26||2010 NDFA||AA/A+||A+||A-|
|Carlos Ramirez||RHP||4/24/1991||23||2009 IFA||Rk|
|Pierce Rankin||LF||4/26/1989||25||2010 Draft (38)||A+/AA||A+/AA||A+/A|
|Chris Schaeffer||C||11/19/1987||26||2010 NDFA||A||A+/AA||A/Rk|
|Brad Allen||RHP||3/26/1989||25||2015 FA||A|
|John Anderson||LHP||11/9/1988||25||2015 FA||AA||A+||Rk|
|Dustin Antolin||RHP||8/9/1989||25||2015 FA||AA||AA/A+||A+|
|Austin Bibens-Dirkx||RHP||4/29/1985||29||2015 FA||AA/AAA||A+/AA|
|Scott Copeland||RHP||12/15/1987||26||2015 FA||AA/AAA||A+||A+|
|Jonathan Diaz||SS||4/10/1985||29||2015 FA||AAA||AAA/AA|
|Jeff Francis||LHP||1/8/1981||33||2015 FA|
|Greg Infante||RHP||7/10/1987||27||2015 FA||AA/AAA|
|Bobby Korecky||RHP||9/16/1979||35||2015 FA||AAA/MLB||AAA||AAA/MLB|
|Michael Lee||RHP||11/18/1986||27||2015 FA||AA|
Key Protection Decisions
There are definitely candidates to be removed from the 40-man to make room to protect several prospects, including but not limited to Cory Burns, Colt Hynes, Bo Schultz, Matt Hague, Kyle Drabek (who is out of options) and various non-tender candidates.
First-Time Eligible Players
In term of first-time eligible players currently unprotected, Andy Burns seems the most worthy of being protected, as well as the most likely to be selected by another team if not. At this point the consensus seems to be that he projects more as a second-division regular or bench player after a year-and-a-half of decent if unspectacular play in double-A following his breakout 2013 season in advance-A. However, that still has value, and the Blue Jays are thin on the infield.
The other really significant name is John Stilson, who is currently recovering from a torn labrum and won't be back until sometime in the spring. He's profiles as a reliever only, and with the injury and injury history it could be tough to justify tying up a spot despite the potential. At the same time, players will be allowed to be placed on the 60-day disabled list in early February, so Stilson's spot on the 40-man spot would be opened up, meaning it only needs to tied up for 9-10 weeks. Likewise, this could deter other teams from selecting him, though it would be really easy for a team in rebuild-mode who really like him to find a spot, shove him on the disabled list, and activate him in the second half to get in the 90 required days.
Two others worth mentioning are Jon Berti and Taylor Cole, although I don't think either of them will be added or selected. Berti is interesting as a primary second baseman with speed on the bases and decent on base skills, a grinder utility profile. Cole had a strong year in Dunedin after a lacklustre 2013, but putting him in the majors would be a big leap.
Additionally, Blake McFarland and Arik Sikula both had very impressive 2014 campaigns, reaching and succeeding in double-A and then performed very well in the recently completed Arizona Fall League. Despite that, I can't see either being protected or selected (a small chance of latter perhaps if a team got a really good look and really liked what they saw).
Finally, there's three players noteworthy for receiving very large signing bonuses: Adonys Cardona, Gabriel Cenas, Dickie Thon. None should or will be protected, and it's inconceivable any of them will be taken.
Previously Eligible Players
In terms of previously eligible players, there's really little to say. Gregory Infante had a great 2014, running his fastball into the mid-90s. Presumably, if another team wanted him badly they've have signed him as a free agent, but the Rule 5 could present an opportunity to bring into camp and see how he does. Ricky Romero is Ricky Romero, if some team wanted to eat his contract and take a chance, it would have happened already. Ryan Schimpf has been a strong performer with good power at double-A the last couple years but is not expected to be able to translate that into major league production. Danny Barnes was interesting until running into injuries, and the only non-free agent who had big league time is Brad Glenn. And Brad Glenn is, you know, Brad Glenn.
My gut prediction: Andy Burns will be added to the roster and protected at the expense of one of the DFA candidates mentioned above.