This weekend is a big one for the Blue Jays and how they set up their roster for the upcoming winter meetings. On the final day of the winter meetings, the 30 MLB clubs will gather for their annual Rule 5 draft, by which minor league players may be selected from other teams’ organizations provided they meet certain criteria (see below). The Blue Jays happen to be in a roster crunch by way of having several prominent players who are eligible to be drafted and decisions to make on who to actually place on the 40-man roster to shelter them from other teams’ attentions.
First, the rules of the road for the Rule 5 draft, which was introduced to prevent teams from stockpiling talent in their minor leagues indefinitely. You probably know that the Blue Jays selected Joe Biagini in the Rule 5 draft in 2015. He’s the most successful recent selection the Jays have made. In 2016, the Blue Jays picked Glenn Sparkman and he didn’t work out quite as well. Basically, each team has a 40-man roster. Any minor league player who has at least four years (for players who signed their contracts at 18 years old or younger) or three years (for players signing contracts at 19 years old and older) who aren’t on the club’s 40-man roster are eligible to be selected by another club.
There are a couple of conditions that go along with this vulnerability of players. First of all, a team drafting a player in the Rule 5 draft must have a spot free on their own 40-man roster to place the incoming player. Secondly, they must pay a $50,000 fee to the player’s former team and keep the player on their 25-man MLB roster for the entirety of the season. He must remain active (and not on the DL) for a minimum of 90 days. If the selecting team can’t comply with these rules, they’ll have to offer the player back to the original team for $25,000 and if the original team doesn’t want him back, then the club has to place the player on waivers where he may be picked by any of the other MLB teams.
A Rule 5 player may not be sent to the minors (he’d have to be offered back to the original team and then clear waivers before that can happen).
This year, the deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft is November 20. That means the Blue Jays have some hard decisions to make before Monday. The Blue Jays currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster after sending some players to the minor leagues outright to clear some room and then adding Taylor Guerrieri on waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Who is eligible?
Although it hasn’t been updated since last year, this quick list at Bluebird Banter provides an excellent overview. Looking over the list of 2017 first time eligible players, the following names jump out as being potential players to protect:
Other players for whom a case can be made to protect include:
Finally, a player who is not on the list (because he is new to the system) who bears consideration:
LHP Thomas Pannone
Players who have been previously eligible:
With so many eligible players, who should the Blue Jays protect?
The Blue Jays have some tough decisions to make. Without removing anyone else, there are only a maximum of four spots available and if the Blue Jays add four minor leaguers to the 40-man before Monday’s deadline, it means they won’t be able to select anyone in the Rule 5 draft.
If I was the Blue Jays’ braintrust, I would fill all four slots in their 40-man with (drumroll…..):
In my opinion, these are the four guys who could sit on a big-league bench and have the most realistic chance of sticking out the year and therefore be the most attractive to another team.
Jansen had success at every level he played at, including the Triple-A level where he was able to hit extremely well while providing solid defense behind the plate.
While Greene’s success at the Double-A level was mixed, a young pitcher who can throw 100 mph is a coveted thing in this game. Greene could probably be effective out of the bullpen, with an electric arm and a serviceable (if inconsistent) offspeed pitch and it could help out his development, trying to work on just one offspeed pitch rather than two or three.
McGuire has been seen as defensively ready for the major leagues for a while and could be a solid backup catcher on a big league team. His offense came around quite a lot after his return from injury in 2017 and if, indeed, he is turning the corner with the bat, teams could snap him up quickly if he’s not protected.
Pannone is an interesting pitcher. With a full season of experience of Double-A, he’s close enough to the majors to be able to provide a club with a solid arm in the bullpen. He’s also a lefty who could probably get his fastball up to 93-94 mph in short bursts. While a team might bury him in the ‘pen for a while, he could get a shot to pitch if selected.
Max Pentecost wouldn’t go on the 40-man if I was GM because I think his injury history, lack of playing time at catcher and lack of experience above A-ball would make MLB teams think twice about selecting him.
I think Rowdy Tellez’s poor season in Triple-A in 2017 may have caused many evaluators to take a step back on him. While he looked great on Opening Day, he struggled through the rest of the year.
Justin Shafer is my dark horse to be selected (or protected). He’s got a decent arm (92-94 mph) but has a lot of sink on his fastball and in 2017, he really improved in locating it, finding success at the Double-A and Triple-A (in just a small sample size) levels, cutting down on his walks in the second half.
Andrew Case could also get selected or protected although I think that, despite his excellent season in 2017, there’s less of a chance.
Patrick Murphy and Jordan Romano have both just reached Advanced-A Dunedin so far and while they’re very different pitchers, both have had injuries that have slowed their advancements.
While Francisco Rios pitched in Double-A in 2017, he really struggled to locate his fastball this year. Angel Perdomo, while possessing excellent raw talent, also took a step back in his first year in Dunedin.
Of the four players that I mentioned who were previously available, I think Jonathan Davis might have a chance as he’s been sort of “auditioning” for the 40-man roster in his stint in the Arizona Fall League. I think that Jose Fernandez is interesting. As a mid-to-high 90s throwing lefty, Fernandez has the arm to pitch in the major leagues but showed a frustrating inconsistency in Double-A New Hampshire. Lopes and Leblebijian both have their supporters although I don’t either will attract enough attention to get protected or selected in the draft.
Who do you think the Blue Jays will protect? Will someone get selected in December?
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