Explaining The Rule 5 Draft

It's got its quirks

See also: Teams add to 40-man rosters in advance of Rule 5 draft

Look back at the Rule 5 draft success stories and try not to shake your head too much.

Roberto Clemente was one of the first. In recent years, the Rule 5 poster boy has been Johan Santana, who emerged as the Twins' ace before jet-setting to the Big Apple, with 2008 Home Run Derby star Josh Hamilton now flanking him on the poster.

With the Rule 5 set to get under way on Dec. 11 at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, clubs will spend time combing through minor league rosters like a rockhound in search of that rare gem.

This year marks the second go-round on a revamped Rule 5, adopted during the 2006 World Series, in which teams were given an additional year to evaluate players before it became necessary to either add them to a 40-man roster or left eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

The criteria centers on the player's age on the June 5 preceding the date of his contract. If a player is 19 or older on that date immediately preceding the player's signing, the player is subject to selection at the fourth selection meeting that follows. It's five selection meetings for those that are 18 or older that sign on that date.

Put more clearly, most high school players drafted in 2004 and most college players drafted in 2005 will be eligible for the first time. Most international players signed in 2004 also require protection.

Scouting directors and farm directors will have to closely scrutinize dates, however, because some players may not actually qualify even if they were drafted in those years. But some international players that signed in 2005, because of their age, could be eligible.

It costs $50,000 to add a Rule 5 player to a major league roster. The caveat is that teams must keep that player on their big league club all season, otherwise they must offer the player back to his original organization at half the price. They cannot simply option them to the minor leagues.

The Rule 5, a creative feature in player development, has been around almost as long as the winter meetings themselves.

Here are some tidbits:

— The Rule 5 comes from its spot on the Professional Baseball Agreement. The June draft, for instance, is Rule 4.

— Teams must file their 40-man rosters by Nov. 20, and only those not at the full allotment of 40 may select in the Rule 5.

— Teams select in reverse order of that season's finish.

— Since 1950, selections have included a low of three players in 1974 and a high of 24 in 1994. The selection price was increased in 1985 to $50,000 from $25,000.

— There are Triple-A and Double-A segments of the Rule 5 draft, with price tags of $12,000 and $4,000 respectively. Minor league players not protected on the reserve lists at the Double-A and Class A levels are subject to selection, but almost no future big leaguers emerge from this process. It's basically a tool for major league teams to fill out affiliates rather than obtain talent. However, the Giants found success in that route. In 2005, they took second baseman Eugenio Velez from the Blue Jays.

The Rule 5 has been known to get quirky.

In 1988, the Braves drafted a player from themselves. They neglected to protect righthander Ben Rivera on the 40-man roster, had the first pick in the draft and took him.

But mostly the Rule 5 is about who got away and to where.

Just imagine if the Brooklyn Dodgers had protected Clemente. One of the most athletic outfielders ever to play the game, he hit 240 home runs and drove in 1,305 in an 18-year major league career that put the Pirates on the map.

Santana was acquired after spending his first three seasons in the Astros system. He was 20-20, 4.78 in 343 minor league innings. That included 349 strikeouts and 130 walks.

Hamilton burst onto the scene two years ago with the Reds and became known in most U.S. households following his terrific night in July when he starred in the Home Run Derby. But he was a known entering the 2007 Rule 5.

The Rays had made him a first-round pick in 1999, and many believed he could be a talented major leaguer if he could—and eventually did—kick a terrible drug habit.

The Royals also struck it big two years ago when they Rule 5'd Joakim Soria, a righthander in the Padres system. He is now their closer.