Last time, I asked about the Rule 5 Draft, and you answered by going over the 40-man roster. Are we done with that? Not quite.

Why not? Are there any exceptions? Can a team have a player under contract but not on its 40-man roster? Yes. If a player’s put on the Restricted List–typically for a PED suspension, but also for any kind of unpaid absence, like an extended bereavement or family illness leave or failing to get a visa in time to report to the team–he can be removed from the 40-man roster. If a player’s suspended a few games for something like fighting or arguing with an umpire, he stays on the 40-man roster. Also, I don’t think this has been an issue for years, but a player called to active military duty is put on the Military List and can be dropped from the 40-man roster. More uncommonly, a player is removed from the 40-man roster if he’s put on the Disqualified List (for violating the terms of his contract; most recent example Carlos Zambrano for walking out during a Cubs game in 2011) or the Ineligible List (kicked out of the sport; most recent example is Pete Rose).

Give me some examples of how the 40-man roster works. Take the Boston Red Sox this offseason. On November 6, the 60-day disabled list expired, so the Red Sox returned the five players they had on it to their active roster. To make room for then, they waived a player and outrighted four to AAA Pawtucket. They entered the offseason with 38 players on their 40-man roster. When they traded for Craig Kimbrel on November 13, they sent the Padres minor leaguers who weren’t on the 40-man roster, so their 40-man roster grew to 39 players. On November 20, they fiddled with their 40-man roster, adding three minor leaguers and outrighting a couple players to Pawtucket, putting them at 40 players. On December 2, they signed Chris Young as a free agent. Since they already had a full 40-man roster, they had to make room for Young, so they designated a player for assignment. Two days later, they did the same when they signed David Price. Three days after that, they traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Two guys on the 40-man roster for two guys on the 40-man roster: that’s a wash.

OK, so what does all this have to do with the Rule 5 Draft? Remember in the last post when I said:

When an amateur player’s signed and placed in his team’s minor leagues, he’s not put on the 40-man roster. However, that lasts only five years (for players signed at age 18 or younger) or four years (for players signed older). After that time has passed, the player must be placed on the 40-man roster.

If the team doesn’t put a drafted player on the 40-man roster within the four- or five-year timeframe, the player can be claimed in the Rule 5 Draft.

How Does the Rule 5 Draft work? It’s held on the last day of baseball’s Winter Meeting. A minor leaguer drafted in the Rule 5 Draft must be kept on the drafting team’s major league roster the entire following season. The drafting team pays $50,000. If the drafting team wants to send the player to the minors before the following season’s over, they have to offer him back to the original club for $25,000. If the original club doesn’t take him back, the drafting team can send him to the minors. (There are also AAA and AA minor league Rule 5 drafts, but let’s stick with the majors for now.)

Wait, hold on. There must be a lot of players in the minors who have been with a franchise more than three or four years. Yes, but they haven’t been picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Since there’s a price to pay (not so much the $50,000 but the seat on a major league bench), relatively few players are chosen in the Rule 5 Draft.

Is the Rule 5 Draft a new thing? It’s been around since 1903.

What’s the thinking behind a Rule 5 Draft? There are two sides to it. From the team side, it prevents teams from stockpiling all the good talent in the minors in order to create a competitive advantage. As you might imagine, that was a much bigger deal when farm systems were a new thing than it is today. From the player’s perspective, it gives a veteran minor leaguer, whose position might be blocked at the major league level, an opportunity to advance elsewhere. The most famous Rule 5 draftees (note that the rules for Rule 5 eligibility have changed over the years) are Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander and Roberto Clemente. Other stars, drafted under modern Rule 5 rules, include Jose BautistaGeorge Bell, Josh Hamilton, and Johan Santana.

How big is the Rule 5 Draft? It’s not huge. This year there were 16 players selected among 11 selecting teams. The Phillies, Reds, Brewers, Padres, and Angels each drafted two players. The Braves, Rockies, A’s, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Cardinals drafted one each. Last year there were 14 players selected. The only team to pick more than one last year was the Phillies, who kept just one, center fielder Odubel Herrera, The biggest name drafted last year was Delino DeShields Jr., who was a solid performer (,259 TAv, 1.7 WARP) for the AL West Champion Rangers.

Circling back, are there 40-man roster implications? Yes. Since players drafted in the Rule 5 Draft are immediately placed on the 40-man roster, the only teams that can participate are teams with an opening on their 40-man roster. As previously noted, the Red Sox had 40 players on their 40-man roster. They sat out the Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies had 38, so they had room for two selections, which they took.

Is that it? Yep.



Thanks to Ryan Sullivan for editing help.

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