Expansion Draft Protections

Cubs Protected Players

This particular prompt is all about whom the Cubs could or should protect from an expansion draft. To that end, I feel as though the prompt itself is rather simplistic in regard to the protections that would likely be afforded to a Major League Baseball team with regards to the Major League roster alone. For most of this, I’m going to reference the NHL Expansion Draft rules, which you can find at that link. I’m going to first create my own rules regarding what players a given club is allowed to protect on their current roster, and then make a list of the players that I would then protect given those rules.

**Protection Rules**

*Position Players*

Teams may protect:

  • 1 Catcher, 3 Infielders, and 2 Outfielders OR
  • 5 position players of any position


Teams may protect:

  • 3 Starting Pitchers and 3 Relievers OR
  • 4 Pitchers of any type.

**Additional Rules**

  • Any player with a No Trade Clause for the upcoming season (including 10-5 rights) MUST be protected from the Draft. This player will take up one of the spots above.
  • Buyouts must occur before the draft.
  • Any player with less than 1 year of MLB service time at the end of the 2018 season is ineligible for the 25-man roster portion of this draft.
  • A player’s position will be determined by the Commissioner’s Office if it’s ambiguous.

I believe these rules would match up fairly nicely with the NHL protections from last season. They allow the clubs to keep most of their core players around, while punishing them a bit for overzealous signings, and allowing the new expansion teams access to some pretty good players. Not the best players. But at least legitimate starters at every position would likely be available.

Cubs Protected Players

  1. Willson Contreras – This takes my 1 Catcher position, and is something of a no-brainer decision. He’s the best young catcher currently in the game.
  2. Kris Bryant – The first Infielder and Position player. ROY, MVP, this guy does it all. One of the best young players in the game today.
  3. Javier Baez – Second infielder and Position player. I can’t NOT protect this kid, he’s just too good. Javy Jighlight stays on the North Side as long as I can keep him here.
  4. Jason Heyward – First outfielder and 4th Position player. This one is forced due to his No Trade Clause.
  5. Kyle Schwarber – Second outfielder and 5th Position player. He’s been an excellent hitter from the moment he was drafted. And he’s turned himself into a pretty good defensive left fielder.
  6. Anthony Rizzo – Third infielder and 6th Position player. Yes, he’s had a down year. There is no getting around that. He’s also one of the best pure hitters on this club, and his bat tends to determine how well the team is doing at any given time. Plus, that contract is just lovely.
  7. Yu Darvish – First Starting Pitcher and First Pitcher. Forced due to his No Trade Clause.
  8. Kyle Hendricks – Second Starting Pitcher and Second Pitcher. I love this kid. Throws strikes. Lots of movement on his pitches. Gets people out with guile rather than strength.
  9. Jose Quintana – Third Starting Pitcher and Third Pitcher. That contract is absolutely amazing. He’s been a Cy Young caliber pitcher in the past, and I think he can get back there again
  10. Jon Lester – Fourth Starting Pitcher and Fourth Pitcher. He’s expensive, which is why I put him last on this list. But he’s also good. And he’s another pitcher that doesn’t rely purely on speed to get guys out.

As far as some of the other guys I didn’t protect…

  1. Victor Caratini. Would not be eligible to be drafted under the system above.
  2. Tyler Chatwood. He’s not a good pitcher.
  3. Mike Montgomery. I could have labeled him a Reliever, because that’s where most of his appearances come. But that would be intellectually dishonest. He’s proven himself as a starter. He’s only a reliever on the Cubs because Chatwood is more expensive, and our other 4 starters are really really good. Even with that, I don’t think he’ll get selected given who I’m forced to leave off the protection list.
  4. Tommy La Stella. He’s not getting drafted. He’s a pinch hitter and backup infielder. We would have to expose better players than TLS under the protection rules outlined above.
  5. Ben Zobrist. I’m not fond of keeping pure part-timers. Especially on a team this young and capable. 3 years ago, we needed his experience, his defensive range, and his bat. Now? I think we can get along without it. Either way, I don’t think he gets selected in the draft.
  6. Ian Happ and Albert Almora. I almost view these two as being interchangeable. Not in terms of their skill sets. AA is an excellent defensive CFer with limited range and a singles-only bat. Ian Happ is a fast, rangy CF who needs defensive seasoning and has a boomstick that needs to be controlled. But in terms of their results. I don’t think that either of these guys is more or less valuable than the other. I would be fine with losing one of these two to the new team. But I don’t think I’ll be losing either of them to a single expansion club.
  7. The relievers. I’m generally of the opinion that relievers are replaceable. I could have saved CJ Edwards, Pedro Strop, and one of Brandon Morrow or Steve Cishek instead of Lester; and hoped that Lester’s contract would be enough to scare a drafter away. But I don’t think their combined influence would be as large as Lester’s would have been. Relievers are fickle instruments, prone to wild swings from year to year. I think that the 3 above relievers are our best long-term options. And that doesn’t really outweigh what Lester can bring to the table. Plus, even with his contract, I think Lester gets selected even above the guys I must leave exposed. Too long of a history of being a really good player, and Front-Line Starter is going to be the hardest position an expansion team could fill.
  8. Addison Russell. This one hurts. I mean, this one REALLY hurts. It came down to Russell and Rizzo. Russell is a better defensive player at a more valuable defensive position. Rizzo has historically the better bat, and he’s basically the heart and soul of this team. I could easily switch these two, and it took me until the absolute last moment to decide to keep Rizzo instead of Russell. Whichever one of Rizzo or Russell I elect to keep, the other one is going to get drafted, without question. They are probably the 2 best players that the expansion team will be able to get, outside of whoever the Yanks are unable to protect.

So, that’s how I would build an Expansion draft, how I would protect the Cubs players from that draft, and why I left certain players unprotected. Feel free to discuss or dispute anything I’ve said above. I’m pretty certain that many here would be quite angry with me about some of the choices I made for this draft. Mostly, I just felt that the original prompt was too quick and simple, and wanted a bit more of a challenge.

Thanks for reading!

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