Chicago Cubs: The Rule Five Fiasco

Matt PoloniCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2008

Thursday afternoon was the Rule Five Draft. The Cubs didn't select anyone in the draft, but they did lose three players and trade for another.

Mark Holliman was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Triple-A phase. The Cubs originally drafted the right-hander in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. In three years with the Cubs, he compiled a 22-27 record with a 4.13 ERA and 321 strikeouts in comparison to 181 walks.

Yusuf Carter was taken by the Oakland A's in the same phase of the draft, nine picks earlier. The nephew of Joe Carter was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 12th round back in 2005.

He has shown some power (42 homeruns) in his three full seasons with the club. Unfortunately, he strikes out four times as much as he walks and failed to bat better than .233 over those years.

Donnie Veal

The major league phase of the draft then saw the loss of Donnie Veal to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite having four open spots on the 40-man roster, the Cubs failed to protect him.

The Pirates will now have to keep Veal on the 25-man roster for the season's entirety. If they fail to do so, he will be sold back to the Cubs for half the price it cost to acquire him.

Veal was originally drafted by the Cubs in the second round of the 2005 draft. Because of his size, stuff, and unorthodox delivery, he was often compared to former Cub farmhand Dontrelle Willis and, in 2006, he was the Cubs' second-best prospect according to Baseball America.

However, Veal's minor league career these past few years has followed Willis' career over the same span a little too closely. He's had problems repeating his delivery and, as a result, has been inconsistent with his 94 mph fastball, plus curveball, and changeup.

He did, however, show flashes of the talent that the Cubs saw when they originally drafted him. In 2008, Veal was a Southern League All-Star and had a 3.69 ERA in the first half.

It is highly unlikely that he will get any starts with Pittsburgh this year. Instead, look for him to be used as any power lefty out of the bullpen would be used: a lefty specialist.

It should be noted that Veal's difficulties these past few seasons could have something to do with the loss of both of his parents.

Back in November 2004, his mother died from cancer. Then, in November 2007, his father died in a scuba diving accident, neither had life insurance.

To make matters even more difficult, Veal's younger brother was a freshman in college at the time of his father's death. A line of credit was taken out on their house to help with money.

Veal has handled the situation about as well as you could possibly expect. He doesn't want to make excuses, although this would certainly qualify as a reasonable one. Baseball is his escape.

I think I speak for all the Cubs' faithful when I say that I wish him and his family all the best going forward.

David Patton

The other major move for the Cubs came after the Reds made their first pick, acquiring that pick from the Reds. That player is David Patton.

Just as the Pirates must keep Donnie Veal on their 25-man roster, the Cubs must keep Patton on their roster for the entire season.

Patton was originally drafted by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. The last three years he has been a closer in the Rockies system.

Patton has been recording decent strikeout to walk ratios over the past few years, being at 3:1 for two seasons and 2:1 for the other. But he hasn't pitched above Single-A, or recorded more than four saves in any season. Surely you cannot take performance at the Single-A level and extrapolate that to the big leagues.

It's one more move that I don't understand.

Coming into the Rule Five Draft, the Cubs had 36 spots filled on the 40-man roster. With this move, they now have 37 spots filled.

With Veal there would be flexibility. He could have been on the 40-man roster and stayed in the minor leagues all season if necessary. In addition to that, he would still be with the team no matter what roster moves were made.

Patton does not provide the same flexibility. As stated before, he must stay on the 25-man roster all season or be sold back to the Rockies.

Veal has experience at the Double-A level as a starter. Patton has Single-A experience as a reliever meaning fewer innings against lesser opponents.


Even after his struggles in 2007, Veal was listed as the Cubs sixth best prospect by Baseball America coming into this year. In Patton's five years with the Rockies, he has never garnered the distinction of being one of the club's top ten prospects.

Veal is one year younger and has accomplished more. But his recent control problems seem to be what sealed his fate.

Oneri Fleita, the Cubs' player development director, described Patton as a guy with three plus pitches, a 94 mph fastball, the ability to throw strikes. Considering that the loss of Veal was the same day, these comments seem to also act as an explanation for that move.

In my estimation, the Cubs showed that they had given up on Veal by not protecting him. It is a move that basically says "We don't want you anymore."

Of course, as a Cubs fan I wish nothing but the best for Patton and I hope this works out great for both him and the club. But I also hope that not protecting Veal comes back to bite the Cubs.

The Cubs farm system has been further diluted.