Rule 5 picks can be worth a shot, but they also can put teams behind the 8 ball (also, radio musings with Matt Klentak) - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Rule 5 picks can be worth a shot, but they also can put teams behind the 8 ball (also, radio musings with Matt Klentak)

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

There were several things of note that happened with the Orioles this weekend – on the positive and negative ledger – but two, somewhat related ones stood out to me.

Outfielder Anthony Santander was sent to Double-A Bowie on Sunday morning.

On Saturday night, right-hander Pedro Araujo had a nightmare of an appearance, giving up two runs on three walks, a hit by pitch and a double while recording only two outs.

The common link here is that Araujo and Santander are both Rule 5 picks – meaning they were players that were not placed on their original clubs’ 40-man roster when contractually eligible and, instead, could be claimed by another organization for $100,000.

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The catch is those types of players must stay on the claiming team’s 25-man roster all year or be offered back to the original club for $50,000.

Essentially, it is a cheap way to acquire young and inexpensive talent – and on occasion it pays off (Jose Bautista and Johan Santana are both prominent examples of Rule 5 successes, so there is talent available).

The Orioles, under executive vice president Dan Duquette, are the undisputed kings of the Rule 5 draft. So much so that this season the club went into spring training with a mind-boggling four Rule 5 players: Araujo from the Chicago Cubs, fellow pitchers Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa Jr., from the New York Yankees and Santander, who was a carryover from the December 2016 Rule 5 draft and the Cleveland Indians.

Choices are great, but that was overkill. Especially since the Orioles ended up taking three Rule 5 picks with them north for Opening Day.

Cortes, a soft-tossing lefty with great minor league numbers, was pounded at the beginning of the season and sent back to New York.

Santander, 23, showed some glimpses of promise, but after going hitless in three at-bats Saturday afternoon, saw his season average drop to .198. He had four hits in 26 May at-bats (.154 average) and only one was an extra-base hit.

Because he fulfilled his final, 44-day requirement in the majors Saturday – he was on the big league DL for a chunk of 2017 – Santander finally could be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. It’s nice to have that kind of power bat in the system.

That leaves Araujo as the last Rule 5 man standing of the four to arrive at spring training. And, frankly, this experiment probably should end now, too.

Araujo entered the nightcap Saturday in the eighth with the Orioles down two runs, 5-3. He immediately gave up two more, and it could have been much worse, but Mike Wright picked up a strikeout with the bases loaded to salvage Araujo’s line.

Araujo’s season ERA has ballooned to 6.86, and he’s allowed earned runs in seven of his last eight outings, including seven runs in his past three appearances spanning 3 1/3 innings.

The Orioles like Araujo’s make up and ability to pitch, but it’s obvious the 24-year-old isn’t ready for the majors. That seemed to be the case before he threw in Sarasota; he had just one game above High-A in his previous seven pro seasons.

Yet the Orioles not only have been forced to use him in the big leagues, but have had him in fairly significant situations, and he hasn’t fared well in most.

“I’ve said many times in the major leagues and the American League, (Rule 5 guys are) going to have to pitch and we still think well of him. He’s got a future. It’s just kind of, unfortunately, you have to be force-fed a little bit up here and I felt for him. It’s tough,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not really his (fault). His experience level is a challenge for him like most guys from his background. And some of them pick it up at different paces and get to the point where they can contribute. So, very much like Anthony Santander. Anthony’s had his really good moments, but it’s challenging for guys with that experience level.”

It’s always fun to read between the lines with Showalter. And that line is this: Rule 5 guys usually aren’t ready for the grind of a season. Because there is no let up, no way to hide someone in the big leagues.

Showalter is used to dealing with Rule 5 guys, of course. He’s done that dance for an entire season with Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, Jason Garcia, Joey Rickard and now Santander.

And, with the exception of Garcia, they’ve all been contributing major leaguers at some point. The flip side: You are talking about a utility infielder, a middle reliever and outfielders whose ceilings are probably part-time status.

Those are back-end of the roster roles that should include option flexibility and not handcuff a manger’s flexibility.

This is where you could blast Duquette for his obsession with Rule 5 players, but I’ll take a more global stance – quite literally.

This is what happens when you have a non-existent international program. This is what happens when ownership philosophy cuts off a necessary talent pipeline. Not only are there fewer top prospects in such a system, but there are fewer role players available, too.

And that makes a no-stone-unturned talent seeker like Duquette rely too heavily on the Rule 5.

Santander has made it through the gauntlet, and that’s great, though we’ll never know what the exact cost of that decision is.

But Araujo? Certainly, the team doesn’t want to give away a promising arm on a team going nowhere, but the absolute upside here is late-inning reliever. It could take a couple years to get him there. And he turns 25 in July.

You can keep him and keep your fingers crossed on a flawed team, but it’s still a longshot he’ll be anything more than a serviceable pitcher in the future.

The great thing about experiments is if they don’t work, you end them.

One programming note: Monday’s Baltimore Baseball radio show on WOYK 1350 in York, Pa., featured a lengthy interview with Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who spent four seasons as the assistant to Andy MacPhail with the Orioles from 2008 to 2011. In our talk, Klentak and I discuss the rebuild he has overseen in Philly, the influence his time in Baltimore had on his career as well as why he hired Gabe Kapler and signed Jake Arrieta. Give it a listen below, on the station’s website or download it as a free podcast from iTunes (search BaltimoreBaseball.com).

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 15, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Chalk me up as one vote in favor of keeping Araujo. Buck can figure out a way to hide him.

    • pjclark4

      May 15, 2018 at 9:20 am

      This team isn’t making the playoffs. They have to trade their best player even if they do miraculously play their way back to .500 before the deadline. DD left himself with no choice.

      Given that, they should just keep Araujo. Why send him back now? The damage from fielding a team on opening day with 3 guys who have no business being in the majors has been done. May as well ride it out.

      The international failure is unacceptable. Dan has set this organization back as a result. No other way to put that, in my opinion.

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 15, 2018 at 9:44 am

        The lack of investment in the international market comes from the big office on the top floor, not from Duquette’s office. I have a difficult time believing any baseball executive would avoid the international market without being clinically insane. .

        • Jbigle1

          May 15, 2018 at 9:58 am

          Duquette had no problems spending internationally during his time in Boston. Definitely not his philosophy. It’s funny that we don’t spend internationally and one of our best players, Schoop was signed that way. He wasn’t a big signing bonus guy either. You’d think if there was an incentive to spend more that way seeing a guy like Schoop would be it.

      • Gibbyx

        May 15, 2018 at 9:51 am

        The International situation is not really on Duquette. Angelos doesn’t allow Duquette to play in that market so DD has tried to get creative with trades and rule 5 picks.

        Other than the horrendous handling of the Markakis/Cruz free agency (probably due to the Toronto interest in him) and his subsequent efforts to make up for that (Snider Trade, Parra Trade) most of the problems that have led the Orioles here can’t be thrown on Duquette.

        From what I’ve read/heard, it sounds very dysfunctional in the Front Offices of the Os……which worries me this sell off will be botched

        • Jbigle1

          May 15, 2018 at 10:01 am

          The snider trade didn’t work out but it made some sense in theory. Steven brault was the only loss from that deal. Pitching in the NL with arguably the best pitching coach in all of baseball he’s only managed to be an alright reliever. Certainly more than snider but I wouldn’t consider that to be a huge loss. The Braves wanted to dump kakis this offseason but didn’t really find any interest. He’s having a huge year, one that may make that contract worth it but that deal hasn’t exactly been a bargain to this point.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Lots of stuff in this thread. My two cents: I just don’t see Araujo being more than a 7-8 inning arm at top of ceiling. And so I’m not sure it’s worth the growing pains now. Many ways to find that kind of arm. Secondly, I’ve often said Markakis’ value cannot be determined simply by offensive stats. I stand by that. Third, Travis Snider was a crapshoot at the time. It wasn’t what they gave up as much as the fit he wasn’t.

  2. karks

    May 15, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Pedro has great stuff, but the consistency just isn’t there. But it is a lot like the situation with Santander. You keep running this guy out there when he’s clearly not able to compete at this level. Even if this is a last place team, it certainly doesn’t help to throw these young guys to the dogs.

    Since the O’s are so fond of trading international signing slots, why not work something out with the Cubs to keep Araujo and then option him down to Frederick or Bowie?

    Dan, I understand your point as to why they are so big on Rule 5 guys. And they have managed to have some pretty good years while doing so. But there does come a point when a player shows that he’s just not ready, and I think that’s the case here. Duquette owes it to the team to bring in players who can compete.

  3. Birdman

    May 15, 2018 at 8:08 am

    I would try to find a way to hold on to Araujo, especially since the O’s have already effectively played themselves out of the wild card race for 2018.

    If the choice is between keeping Araujo or Wright, I go with Araujo. Wright is 28 and has been pitching (on and off) at the major league level since 2015, and he has shown no improvement in four years. Which guy is more likely to be a positive contributor to the team in 2020, Araujo or Wright? I think the odds favor Araujo.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Well, in that prism, sure.

  4. Djowen

    May 15, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Dan, if the O’s want to work a trade for him does he need to pass through waivers before a trade can be made or can we do the trade without having to send him through waivers? Maybe we can include him in a Manny trade. No not 1-1, but as a throw in.

    • Gibbyx

      May 15, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Considering Manny will go to a contender, including Araujo likely lowers the return in any trade because it weakens their bullpen and forces them to hold him. Best to just hold onto Araujo and see if he can develop at AA next year. He’s had his moments (most notably in the Yankees series taking over for Mike Wright) and if he can harness that more consistently could be a very valuable bullpen piece, which nowadays is no small thing

      • Jbigle1

        May 15, 2018 at 9:50 am

        Another interesting thing to note we DFA’d Jesus liranzo to keep all these rule 5 guys and he’s posting sparkling numbers in the Pirates system. We arguably DFA’d a higher upside pitcher for keeping these guys. I hated that move then and still do now. I don’t understand why Ynoa wasn’t the one who was DFA’d even if we were going to keep all those rule 5 guys.

      • Djowen

        May 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

        My mistake. I meant we get Araujo as part (a very small part) of a trade sending Manny to the Cubs.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Good point JB. LIranzo is the same kind of arm but higher upside with lesser restrictions.

  5. Dblack2508

    May 15, 2018 at 9:34 am

    The bottom line is the depth at the minor leagues is not where it should be, which forces the Orioles to put players via rule 5 on the major league roster. These players usually are role players at best. I do think Santander might be the exception, I also think the should keep Araujo since they have nothing to lose at this point.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Again, I just don’t know what they have to gain.

  6. Jbigle1

    May 15, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Araujo isn’t ready for the major leagues but arguably he hasn’t been our worst reliever. That distinction belongs to our own rule 5 pick mike wright. He might as well be considered our 4th rule 5 selection, just one who can’t be optioned in a future season. With that being said the two arms we’d bring up to replace those guys wouldn’t be very good either. In all honesty our top depth is Donnie hart, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Tim Melville right now. It’d help to be able to shuffle those guys but that’s not a good crop of arms either. You’re 100% right on the lack of IFA spending killing us. Araujo and Santander are guys that any other ball club signs right out of IFA. Instead the orioles trade them for konner wade or Milton Ramos. This strategy allows us to not spend money twice. No signing bonus for the prospect we acquire and we don’t have to spend the IFA money.

  7. Jbigle1

    May 15, 2018 at 9:47 am

    And another thing with Santander. He didn’t have to play that much. He was essentially our starting right fielder for the first 2 months of the year and that has nothing to do with the rule 5. Yes, he had to be up instead of Rickard but there’s no reason we had to trot him out there as much as we did.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 15, 2018 at 10:28 am

      They did after Rasmus went down.

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

        And no Trumbo plodding about either.

      • Jbigle1

        May 15, 2018 at 2:19 pm

        Rasmus’ trip to the DL shouldn’t have had to force Santander to play though. Rasmus going to the DL should’ve made room for another outfielder- Presley or Rickard. It did because of how we chose to utilize our roster spots but it shouldn’t have. In no world did we have to play Santander that much.

        • Jbigle1

          May 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

          I can see after schoop/Beckham went down it was increasingly difficult to not play Santander but he was an everyday player before that. I guess they didnt like Valencia in right field even though he has logged a bunch of starts out there. It’s not like Santander is a slick fielding RF himself.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Yeah, it was basically him or Gentry and Buck prefers Gentry for late innings as D or PR replacement.

  8. bickel57

    May 15, 2018 at 10:11 am

    We need to get rid of Mike Wright Jr. before we get rid of the rule 5 guy. The only thing associated with Wright name is that he is out if options not that he is good enough to be here. The way he has pitched this year cut are lose and cut him loose.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      I wouldn’t connect the 2 tho.

  9. PA Bird Lover

    May 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Obviously the Phils are doing a good job on the field at the moment. The long season holds the truth. I doubt Klentak would have success in Baltimore because of ownership. That’s the basic key.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      And there was success in Baltimore from 2012-16. Don’t discount that.

  10. Orial

    May 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    All I can say is that after 2018 and the end of this era a whole new philosophy will take over. Younger manager,younger GM,2 Angelos sons being more aggressive in allowing a new direction to develope. GONE with the rule 5’s,GONE with the indecisiveness,IN with International signings and farm development. I regret saying this about Buck but it seems his stubborn ways are getting in the way of progress. Of course this is my dream scenario meaning none of it will come about.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Dreaming is always therapeutic.

  11. bats in the blefary

    May 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Peter Angelos disgusts me. He deserves derision, lots of it, from everyone.

  12. bv22

    May 15, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    So Araujo has been at Single A for 7 seasons, is in his mid-20s, and he was made available for the Rule 5 draft? I don’t understand why they’d even take a chance on a guy in that situation. If we kept him, how long is it going to take him to get back to the Show? It could be at least another 3-4 seasons until we see him, and at that point, he’s in his late 20s. I think there are more cons than pros to keeping him or somehow making it work for him. They ought to just end the experiment and return him to the Cubs. I don’t understand why the O’s keep hamstringing themselves with these Rule 5 picks year after year after year. Angelos really needs to wake up and realize his philosophies are causing his team to play at a competitive disadvantage every single time they take the field.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 15, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Maybe he’d be back at 26-27. But again as a mid-inning reliever.

    • tim815

      May 17, 2018 at 8:18 am

      He was 3 1/2 years getting out of the Dominican League, and the light went on for him last year in Advanced-A Ball. Pitching in the big leagues is hard to do, and guessing on a player’s timeline is just that.

      What is the best upside player anyone would cough up for him? That’s what Epstein wants is upside. A trade is possible, but returning him is an option, as well.

  13. mike3764

    May 15, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    So let’s take a look back at our Rule 5 picks (hits and mostly misses):
    2017: Nestor Cortes – returned to Yankees
    2017: Pedro Araujo – probably should be returned
    2016: Anthony Santander – finally sent to minors…fringe prospect
    2016: Aneury Tavarez – sent back – in AAA Red Sox – fringe prospect
    2015: Joey Rickard – good pick – 4th outfielder
    2014: Jason Garcia – handicapped roster spot – couldn’t stick on roster – buried in AA Rockies minors
    2014: Logan Verrett – sent back – signed again in 17 – somewhere in KBO
    2013: Michael Almanzar – sent back…signed again…now in Nationals’ AAA batting .207
    2012: TJ McFarland – Buck favorite for a bit…DFA’d now Diamondbacks bullpen
    2011: Ryan Flaherty – great utility guy – now in Atlanta
    2010: Adrian Rosario – returned to Brewers in spring – hasn’t played since 2013
    2009: Ben Snyder – traded – hasn’t played since 2013
    2008: Lou Palmisano – traded to the Astros for cash – hasn’t played since 2010
    2007: Randor Bierd – pitched in 2008 for O’s – hasn’t played since 2010
    2006: Alfredo Simon – decent pick up – was an all star for the Reds one year – pitched in minors in 2017
    2004: Luke Hagerty – traded – hasn’t played in a long time
    2003: Jose Bautista – we sent him back – glad we did 🙂
    2000: Jay Gibbons – was good for a bit – got caught – at least he didn’t testify before congress…

    So leaving out Bautista (because he stunk when we had him), Gibbons in ’00, Alfredo Simon in ’06, Flaherty in ’11 and Rickard in ’15 are probably the only hits out of the 18 picks listed above. McFarland is a maybe. That’s about a 25% marginal success rate. Is that better than the draft? If we can roll the dice with Rule 5 picks, can’t we roll the dice with the International Market? If nothing else, we have a track record enough to show that we should only ever have ONE Rule 5 guy on the roster at any given time….otherwise we are just handcuffing the team.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 15, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      I wouldn’t call Simon a success, either. The O’s traded him to the Phillies immediately after taking him in the Rule 5 (for Adam Donachie, who topped out at Norfolk and is now in independent ball). Simon didn’t make his Orioles debut until two years later when they signed him as a minor league FA.

  14. willmiranda

    May 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    A concern about the Rule 5 guys is that, whatever their limitations, they are competitive for the final spots on the roster with whoever else we have, e.g. Santander with Hays, Mullen, Stewart or Araujo with Wright, et. al.

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