The fallout from Major League Baseball’s lockout could have far-reaching implications on trade and free-agent markets, potentially slowing them down as teams have clamped down on scouting minor league players currently on the loose. spring training camps due to uncertainty over the Rule 5 draft, officials from nine teams told ESPN.
Multiple teams have consulted with the league about the possibility of canceling the Rule 5 draft for this season, sources said. In the draft, teams can select players not on the 40-man roster and pay $100,000 for their rights, but must keep them on their 26-man major league roster for the entire season. No decision has been made on the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft this season, according to sources, but with minor league spring training underway and games scheduled to begin March 12, the The opacity of the situation has left executives wondering how the league plans to handle the complicated case.
During their talks about a new collective bargaining agreement, MLB and the MLB Players Association have not yet discussed the Rule 5 draft, sources told ESPN. Because it is collectively bargained, the union and the league would have to agree to eliminate it for one season. MLB and the MLBPA declined to comment when contacted by ESPN.
Fearful of losing players if the Rule 5 draft goes ahead, 16 organizations have sent letters to all teams banning scouts from their complexes, according to sources. Only five teams are allowing scouts from other organizations to scout their minor leaguers, according to sources: the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners, who joined the group on Friday. . The five have formed a reciprocal agreement, in which they can scout each other’s prospects. Other organizations have not formalized a policy or outlined a divided plan. The St. Louis Cardinals, for example, will open to the public and media on March 7, but not to scouts until March 17, when games begin.
The implications of decisions to ban scouts, the sources said, could go much deeper: Most teams also can’t evaluate players who might be traded after the lockout ends. The exchange market is expected to be active as the game’s trading book is reopened during a new collective bargaining agreement. But doing so without player scouting would bring unnecessary risk, especially for teams looking to rebuild through trade, sources said.
In past seasons, executives pointed to a stagnant trade market as the reason behind slow movement in free agency. With the possibility of changing the star players of the Athletics, the first baseman matt olsonthe third baseman Matt Chapman and starting pitchers Chris Bassett, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas, the Reds buying starting pitchers before the lockout and others on the move, a trade market clogged due to teams. needing new eyes on potential acquisitions could have a deleterious effect on parts of the free-agent market, the sources said.
The cancellation of the Rule 5 draft, five general managers told ESPN this week, would prompt teams to lift restrictions on scouting and mitigate complications the lockout has caused. The MLB Players Association would have to approve any Rule 5 changes.
Fear that other organizations would get new information on prospects who improved over the winter and apply it to the Rule 5 draft originally fueled the scouting shutdown, sources said. While Rule 5 picks are generally not impact players, they are chosen from a group of people who have spent five years in an organization if they signed at 18 or younger, or four years at 19 or older, profitability of the acquisition makes it particularly important for rebuilding teams.
Of the 17 Major League Baseball Rule 5 selections last season, six stayed with their teams for a full season: Detroit Tigers outfielder, Akil BaddooBoston Red Sox reliever, Garrett WhitlockColorado Rockies reliever, jordan sheffieldMiami Marlins reliever, Paul Campbellthe Cleveland Guardians reliever, Stephan Trevorand Baltimore Orioles reliever, Tyler Wells. If a team drops a Rule 5 player from its major league roster during the season, it must offer him back to the team he was picked from for $50,000, but if he includes him all the time, he can send him back to the minor leagues on next year.
The stoppage, sources said, changed the standard calculation for the Rule 5 draft, which usually takes place during the Winter Meetings in December. Teams must use a 40-man roster spot for a Rule 5 pick, which, in standard years, brings with it a penalty: less roster flexibility during the offseason.
Because of the lockout, GMs said, teams want to take advantage of the additional opportunity to scout players. While player acquisitions in 2022 take into account a number of factors, including analytics, the use of scouts to help note any changes over the winter, such as a player’s fitness or a jump in fastball speed , would be novel for a Rule 5 draft.
Omitting him for a year, a possibility first raised by The Athletic, would also theoretically benefit the union. With hundreds of free agents hitting the open market, jobs could be few and far between. By agreeing to eliminate the Rule 5 draft, teams could use the 26-man free agent spots.
The benefit for typically picked players — who are not among the union’s 1,200 members — is twofold. The chance to make a major league roster is the biggest opportunity, but those who return to their previous teams do so with a significant raise, which players who have been on a 40-man roster receive, over standard league salary. minors.
Another issue that could ease the removal of Rule 5 for a season: providing clarity on players to be named later. Multiple teams have PTBNL from trades last year to choose from, and while they generally must be selected within six months, the lockout prevents any movement on a team’s 40-man roster.
The Orioles are scheduled to pick first in the Rule 5 draft, followed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. The minor league Rule 5 draft was held in December because the stoppage does not prevent the movement of players who are not on teams’ 40-man rosters.
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Sources: Teams request to cancel Rule 5 draft