The Upcoming Rule 5 and Minor League Free Agency Eligible Players

Gregory Polanco will be Rule 5 eligible this year, but that doesn't mean the Pirates need to trade him.
Gregory Polanco will be Rule 5 eligible this year, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates need to trade him.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions wondering who is Rule 5 eligible in the upcoming year. In the past that question would be asked with the focus on building for the future. This year the questions have been geared more towards trading from the Rule 5 eligible players at the deadline in order to add to the major league team. The idea is that the Pirates will have a lot of players to protect since they’ve got a good system in place, and won’t be able to protect them all, so they might as well trade a few of those players to upgrade the team in the short-term.

Let me clear one thing up. I see too many “The Pirates could trade Gregory Polanco because they’ll have a lot of people to protect for the Rule 5 draft” type comments. That’s not how it works. Someone like Gregory Polanco is never difficult to fit on your 40-man roster. Each year you can find about 3-5 spots that are easily removed from the 40-man to protect your top prospects. The “Rule 5 Roster Crunch” impacts the guys lower on the list, such as Nate Adcock or Brett Lorin. The system would have to be insane with talent to have any risk of losing an impact guy in the Rule 5 draft. So the idea of trading an impact guy really amounts to “trade Gregory Polanco so you can make sure Adalberto Santos is protected”. I think Santos is a decent prospect, but he has the upside of a future utility player, and trading a potential star just to hoard everyone who could possibly be a prospect is a ridiculous strategy.

If you’re talking about trading any of the guys below, you’re talking about smaller deals. Maybe you could get 2-3 of them together and get a Wandy Rodriguez deal. But not just 2-3 random players. You’re probably going to have to give up a Stetson Allie type prospect, plus 1-2 more of the guys I’ve highlighted below. Before we get to the lists, let’s do a rundown of how players are eligible.

Minor League Free Agency – The easiest way to calculate this is to count seven years from when a player signed. If a player was drafted in 2007, they would be eligible for minor league free agency after the 2013 season, with 2007 being the first year of the seven year count.

Rule 5 – Players are eligible for their fourth Rule 5 draft if they were 19 or older the year of their draft, and their fifth Rule 5 draft if they were 18 or younger the year of their draft. The age cutoff is not when the player signs, but the beginning of June of the draft year. The easy way to calculate this is that the 2013 Rule 5 draft will have 2009 prep players and 2010 college players. There are a few exceptions, such as Stetson Allie, who was a 2010 prep player, but also turned 19 in May that year.

International Players – International players can be tricky. A lot of players sign in July, when the minor league season is going on. However, the contracts they are signing start the following year. So a guy signed on July 2nd, 2006 would start all of his counts in 2007. He would be eligible for minor league free agency in 2013, rather than 2012. A guy signed on July 2nd, 2008 wouldn’t start his Rule 5 count that winter. Instead, the first Rule 5 draft that would count against him would be the 2009 draft. So a player signed in the 2008-09 signing period would be eligible for the first time in 2013. That includes Gregory Polanco (signed 3/25/09) but not Alen Hanson (signed 7/15/09).

In all of these cases, players can be protected by being added to the 40-man roster. For minor league free agents, that has to happen by the end of the year. For Rule 5 eligible players, the date is November 20th.

Minor League Free Agents

Whether previously eligible, or first time eligible this year, these are the guys who will be minor league free agents at the end of the year. I’ve bolded the guys who stand out.

Tim Alderson
David Bromberg
Brooks Brown
Brett Carroll
Jose Contreras
Erik Cordier
Ivan De Jesus
Emmanuel De Leon
Francisco Diaz
Darren Ford
Graham Godfrey
Jared Goedert
Kris Johnson
Andrew Lambo
Jeff Larish
Lucas May
Eliecer Navarro
Miguel Perez
Felix Pie
Jhonathan Ramos
Luis Sanz
Atahualpa Severino
Ali Solis
Oscar Tejeda
Andy Vasquez
Kyle Waldrop

I’m not sure if the Pirates could add all of these guys. Some of them could be used as depth or trade bait. Lambo is the top guy out of this group, since he has 21 homers on the year and the Pirates lack a right fielder. He could either be a good 2nd or 3rd piece in a trade, or serve as a Plan C if Travis Snider and Jose Tabata both struggle in the majors.

Kris Johnson is probably the second most interesting name behind Lambo. He has been doing well as a starter lately, and would be an emergency depth option if the Pirates had to go beyond Brandon Cumpton. Or he could serve as a lefty reliever in September. I think Johnson would have more value to the team than in a trade.

Ivan De Jesus has been hitting well, and could be a good backup infielder. However, I can’t see him passing up Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud to make the 40-man roster. I also don’t think he will have much trade value. He’s pretty much a depth option, and the Pirates happen to have some good middle infield depth. I keep getting questions about De Jesus, and it shows how this is a new situation for the Pirates. They’ve got a player who is performing well in Triple-A, but no place to put him. That’s good depth, but with everyone healthy and performing that also means there’s no space for him on the active roster.

Jose Contreras has been pitching well since his return to Triple-A, but he’s pretty much a depth option now, and Duke Welker and Vic Black should both be ahead of him.

From this group, I think they either have to add Lambo and Johnson to the 40-man by the end of the year. Lambo would be the only one who could be used as a trade chip.

Rule 5

Previously Eligible

Francisco Aponte
Nathan Baker
Ryan Beckman
Evan Chambers
Jarek Cunningham
Charles Cutler
Benjamin Gonzalez
Samuel Gonzalez
Matt Hague
Ethan Hollingsworth
Jeffrey Inman
Kenn Kasparek
Quinton Miller
Carlos Paulino
Ashley Ponce
Aaron Pribanic
Junior Sosa
Zack Thornton
Kurt Yacko

The one interesting name on this list in terms of immediate major league help is Hague. He hits lefties well, and could be a sleeper option if the Pirates wanted to go with a platoon at third base with Pedro Alvarez, or get an extra bat off the bench against lefties in September.

First Time Eligible in 2013

Stetson Allie
Yhonathan Barrios
Kelson Brown
Matt Curry
Elias Diaz
Zack Dodson
Kawika Emsley-Pai
Roberto Espinosa
Raul Fortunato
Zachary Fuesser
Walker Gourley
Dan Grovatt
Justin Howard
Drew Maggi
Joan Montero
Gift Ngoepe
Clario Perez
Gregory Polanco
Joely Rodriguez
Mel Rojas
Casey Sadler
Adalberto Santos
Rinku Singh
Jason Townsend
Zack Von Rosenberg
Tyler Waldron

I tried to highlight the guys who would draw consideration for the top 50 prospect rankings. None of these guys could provide immediate help. However, when you talk about trading from the Rule 5 group, these are the guys that would have the most value.

Of the above group, Polanco is a must protect. Stetson Allie also has to be up there due to his power outburst this year. I would add Sadler and Rodriguez to my list of guys to protect. I don’t see Curry being a risk to be taken (hamate surgery). I also don’t see Dodson (inconsistent performance), or Ngoepe (overmatched offensively, despite great D) as big risks to be selected. The only other players would be Rojas and Santos. The upside with Santos is a utility player, so it’s not necessary to protect him. Rojas is starting to come around with the bat and could be a must-protect if he keeps this up. Or he could be a good secondary trade option at the deadline if another team believes in him. The Pirates can certainly afford to spare outfielders.

Really the only player I’d absolutely protect and make off-limits is Polanco. The other guys would be good options for trades. You’re not getting a Giancarlo Stanton with that group, but you could get another Wandy Rodriguez type deal with 2-3 of those guys involved.

  • Tim I was thinking that Aoki from MIL would be a huge upgrade in RF . He hit’s for a high avg against both lefty’s and righty’s. We need high obp guys in the lineup. we have to many swing and miss candidates. This would increase our production as much as any . We could put him 1 or 2 in the lineup. He’s also got controllable years left. What would it take to pry him away? Kingham, and Dickerson ? maybe throw in a Joely Rodriguez?

  • I see no problems here at all. I have a very hard time seeing a team keeping Stetson Allie on a major league roster for the entire year, he would have no value to the team whatsoever. I see Santos with a higher upside, so I’d be more inclined to protect him than you are.

    • I agree. He is not ready for the majors, so why would any team want him on the ML roster the entire season?

  • Current 40-man roster names that could be left unprotected:

    Burnett (contract expires)
    Wandy (player option, he’s likely to exercise it but could go on the 60-day if he has surgery)
    Ryan Reid – thanks for the memories
    Barmes (contract expires)
    Inge (contract expires)
    Jared Hughes
    Karstens – should be no temptation to sign him again next year
    McDonald – good luck elsewhere! (could be kept and 60-day DL if he needs surgery)
    Andy Oliver
    Jerry Sands
    Josh Harrison or Chase d’Arnaud – insane to keep both if they decide they want to protect deJesus.

    That leaves:






    d’Arnaud / deJesus / Harrison



    That”s 29 guys without keeping any of the reserve IF troika; probably it would be prudent to keep 2.

    Allowing 2 slots for AJ and Wandy, there is still room for at least 7 of:

    Joely Rodriguez
    Santos (my choice of the 7)



    Not yet a roster squeeze, IMHO.

    • This was pretty good stuff and insight. One of the better pieces I’ve read here.
      Well done!

  • Hope to keep Paulino around. Offense is not good, but holding levels as he moves up. Elite defender and would be a cheap option to be paired with Sanchez in a couple years.
    Would be great to have a back up that can completely shut down any running games.

    • I would agree with you Dom. He looks like he could hold his own defensively in MLB right now,particularly his throwing,and I think his bat has improved a lot since April.

  • Thanks this stuff is awfully confusing.

  • Does Allie even need to be protected? It’s hard to fathom a ML team taking a flyer on a high A prospect. With his strike % this year, he would be completely overmatched in the major. He also doesn’t play many positions, so he wouldn’t even be a denfesive utility player. Would a team be willing to sacrifice a ML spot for someone like that? Even the pirates a few years ago wasn’t willing to keep the rule 5 SS Rodriguez, and they were horrible that year. I think only the top prospect or ML ready prospect in AAA or AA needs to be protected.

    • IF you go back a few more year Pittsburgh kept a power guy named Batista as well. Looking back I wish they had kept him a few more years as he now hits 40-50 homers a year. Power hitters are hard to find so I do think someone would take a chance on an Allie if he were to finish strong at High A. If he continues doing what he has then your right we don’t have to likely worry.

      • Bautista was different, he was an expensive utility player without the issue of being overmatched in the majors.

        I’m not saying that we shouldn’t keep Allie, I’m just wondering if it is really that necessary to protect him in Rule 5. Right now he is striking out 38% in high A. If he were to be selected off of rule 5, major league pitcher would feast on him and it wouldn’t surprise me if his K rate approach the 50% mark. Considering he is a defensive liability, we can rule him out as a defensive switch late in the game. Let’s say that the team has a normal 5 man bench with one backup catcher and another backup shortstop, if they take Allie, that would mean 60% of the bench would have no offensive potential whatsoever. I just can’t see a team willing to stash him on the 25-man roster for an entire season.

        As Tim have pointed out before, most power hitter who have succeeded in the low A amounts to nothing and that AA is the most challenging step for a hitter and he is currently struggling in A+. This leads me to believe that it is unfeasible for another team to take a flyer on him.

        • P.S., I’m a bit confused as to the Bautista you were talking about. Bautista was taken in Rule 5 early in his career but Pirates traded him back. If you were talking about the Blue Jay trade, it’s not because we couldn’t protect him from Rule 5, it was because we made a choice to trade him away, since no one really saw the 50HR potential coming. It was different circumstance.

    • This is kind of related to the Allie question,and I have been curious about this since early this season. If Allie is as highly suspect as his SO numbers would indicate,why are all the ” experts ” on prospects so high on Joey Gallo ? Here is a kid that has a SO rate of close to 45 % at Low A,yet is constantly promoted as one of the best power prospects in Minor League ball,and was selected for the Future Games as well ?

  • “Ivan De Jesus has been hitting well, and could be a good backup infielder. However, I can’t see him passing up Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud to make the 40-man roster”

    I’ll give you Harrison, as he has ML experience and has similar numbers as De Jesus in AAA. (Actually Harrison has numbers that are a shade better than de Jesus, but it’s negligible)

    I’ll never understand what people see in d’Arnaud… He’s a butcher in the field, and in 204 AAA games he has a .254 BA and .713 OPS. By comparison, de Jesus has 360 AAA games under his belt and a .306 BA and .784 OPS

    d’Arnuad is 4 months older than de Jesus, so it’s not as if age is a factor. I’m sorry, but a couple of extra stolen bases is not enough to make up for a poor player at the plate and in the field.

    I realize we’re talking about what will likely be the 39th or 40th guy on the roster, but I’m ready to cut ties with d’Arnaud, especially if keeping him means we lose a comparable player like de Jesus.

    (and yes, I realize that d’Arnaud plays primarily SS and de Jesus 2B, giving him more value, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re a bad fielder to begin with)

    • “and yes, I realize that d’Arnaud plays primarily SS and de Jesus 2B, giving him more value, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re a bad fielder to begin with”

      If d’Arnaud is a bad fielder at SS, and De Jesus doesn’t even get time there, wouldn’t that suggest that De Jesus is a worse fielder than d’Arnaud?

      • Suggests to me that de Jesus is a 2B… You said “Backup middle infielder”. Whether he’s a 2B or SS is inconsequential. I’d also like to add that just because one player plays 2b and the other plays SS doesn’t automatically qualify the SS as the better fielder, especially at a developmental level.

        You’re also making a strawman argument… I’m not suggesting that de Jesus will win a Gold Glove and that gives him more value than d’Arnaud, I’m saying that d’Arnaud is poor in almost every facet of the game (as numbers suggest) and doesn’t deserve a 40 man roster spot. It could be de Jesus taking his spot or probably a dozen or more AAAA-type guys that figure to be available after the season. I merely used de Jesus as an example because you used him in the original piece.

        • “You’re also making a strawman argument”

          I’m not. I’m just using what you’re saying. You’re saying one guy is poor at a tougher defensive position, then not even acknowledging that the other guy doesn’t even play the tougher defensive position.

          I also don’t agree with your assessment of d’Arnaud. I think he has value. He is fast, has good range, smart on the bases, and hits left-handers. His defensive problems have been more about throwing. But as a bench player he can be useful.

        • Come on. The ability to play SS is extremely consequential for a utility infielder. You can’t just compare the offensive numbers of a guy who’s limited to second to a guy who can play second or short.

        • Its my understanding that Dejesus would make DeArnaud look like a gold glove in comparison so if DeArnaud is bad you can only imagine how bad Dejesus is.

      • As long as they protect Kurt Yacko. LOL. We would sorely miss him

  • How come Allie is on the list but not Tallion? Were they not in the same draft? I have been one that states we are headed for a crunch on the 40 man if not this year then next and I am happy for it. I have not really been excited about trading Polonco but if it were to lead to Stanton or someone of that talent level and control I think we should at least explore it. I am not saying bust the system for one player but I think we may be in position to not only get a player that can help immediately but a player who will be helpful for years to come. Adding a player to fill a weakness from an area of strength is what teams do. Their are no guarantees Polonco becomes a star. Heck Snider was considered a brighter prospect then Polonco and we all know what he is today.