With a 40-man roster now at capacity, the San Diego Padres' new-look front office made some interesting choices in protecting six minor league players from the Rule 5 draft. It gives the organization very little wiggle room to add players through trade, free agency or the Rule 5 draft.
The Padres added: pitchers Pedro Hernandez, Jose DePaula, Nick Vincent, Juan Oramas, as well as third baseman Edinson Rincon and outfielder Rymer Liriano. The last two players are head-and-shoulders above the other four in terms of prospect value.
You could argue that it’s better to be cautious when protecting prospects from the annual Rule 5 draft, but there are a couple of important points to remember. Most importantly, if a minor league player is selected in the Rule 5 draft, then they have to stick with the Major League team for the entire year.
If they’re demoted to the minors at any point (save for a rehab assignment after a DL stint), they have to first pass through waivers—making them available to 28 other teams—before being offered back to the original club.
As such, many Rule 5 picks—often players that show a lot of promise but remain quite raw—that successfully make their new team out of spring training find their way back to their original club by mid-season.
It’s tough to keep rookies on a roster all year, unless they're top-of-the-line guys who are not typically available in this type of draft
When a team adds a player to the 40-man roster in haste, it limits roster flexibility, especially when the club—like the Padres in this situation—fills all 40 available slots.
The club cannot add a player to the big league roster without first releasing, waiving, designating or trading a player currently on the 40-man roster (unless it’s the regular season and they move someone to the 60-day disabled list).
Let’s assume San Diego suddenly stumbles upon a great trade scenario, where they add three talented and highly-coveted players currently on the 40-man roster in return for one of San Diego’s big leaguers. The team now has to find room for two players on the 40-man roster so the trade can be consummated.
As we start scanning the roster, we find some names to consider: Jeremy Hermida, Andy Parrino, Luis Martinez, Erik Hamren and Brad Brach. They are basically roster fillers that have limited future value to the organization.
With that said, we have to be pretty comfortable removing these players, because they have to go through waivers and could be lost for good if other teams take a shine to them.That's the catch with assigning 40-man roster spots to fringe players.
Now, let’s take a look back at November 2010 and see how well San Diego’s minor league additions have fared since then. The seven players added at that time were: Brandon Gomes, Jeremy Hefner, Evan Scribner, Simon Castro, Cedric Hunter, Luis Martinez and Jeudy Valdez.
Only three of the seven players remain on the 40-man roster: Castro, Martinez and Valdez. Gomes was traded in the Jason Bartlett deal. Hefner, Hunter and Scribner were all claimed off waivers—the Padres organization lost the trio for nothing in return; had they been available during the 2010 Rule 5 draft, I imagine they would all still be with the organization.
Hunter was the most attractive prospect of the three, but he was raw enough that I’d doubt his ability to stick in the Majors for an entire season.
The Padres added three players in 2009: Steve Garrison, Craig Italiano and Chad Huffman. None of those players remain with the organization—in fact, they did not even last a year.
All three were designated for assignment in September 2010; Garrison and Huffman were claimed by other teams.
Looking back, the organization has a poor track record of adding prospects to the 40-man roster in November. Perhaps the new regime in San Diego, led by General Manager Josh Byrnes, will have better luck.
Time will tell.