How would a canceled Rule 5 draft affect the Cleveland Guardians?
The MLB lockout has upended just about every aspect of professional baseball, including the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft (we did get the minor-league draft at least), which was postponed indefinitely back in December and now appears to be in danger of being canceled altogether this year.
It’s not just because of the lockout itself; MLB executives fear the odd timing of a Rule 5 draft would ultimately hurt teams. This is not only because teams had to have their 40-man rosters finalized months ago before the lockout, but because many Rule 5-eligible players went on to play winter ball or are now in minor-league spring training, where interested teams can start getting extended looks.
Basically, every team is afraid of losing a potential diamond in the rough and there seems to be unanimous consent to just call the whole thing off until next offseason.
There is also the consideration that there are around 200 major-league free agents still waiting to be signed once a new CBA is in place. A Rule 5 pick must be added to a team’s 40-man roster and stay there for the entire season, which would make for more chaos once baseball resumes activity and we see a flood of trades and signings taking place.
What Would a Canceled Rule 5 Draft Mean for the Cleveland Guardians?
Though there isn’t an endless amount of superstars being selected out of the Rule 5 draft, teams are often able to snag meaningful contributors from other organizations that are unable or unwilling to protect them on the 40-man roster.
Last year alone, Red Sox reliever Garrett Whitlock and Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo were taken in the Rule 5 draft and went on to have solid seasons. Whitlock had a 1.96 ERA in 73 1/3 innings with Boston while Baddoo hit .259/.330/.436 with 13 homers, 55 RBIs, 20 doubles, 18 stolen bases, and a 108 wRC+ with Detroit.
As for the Guardians, one could see them possibly taking a reliever to help round out a bullpen that remains in flux. With so many other young position players, though, it’s doubtful the Guardians are itching to add another unproven one to the mix.
Now, a cancellation of the Rule 5 draft could help the Guardians simply because they wouldn’t be losing anyone from the organization. Outfielder Oscar Gonzalez, who hit 31 home runs between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season, was certainly at risk of being picked up by another team. But if the Rule 5 draft is simply canceled this season, the 24-year-old Gonzalez stays within the Guardians’ organization and the team gets another year’s worth of development out of him before having to make a decision for 2023.
Or hey, maybe Gonzalez starts the season on fire in Columbus and the Guardians have themselves a serviceable corner outfielder for 2022 and beyond. That could happen too, you know.