Friday, the Cubs traded Pedro Araujo to the Orioles for $750,000 in international spending space. It’s a minor move, but serves as another look at Rule 5 Draft rules. With the extra spending space, look for the Cubs to add three or four international players to the system that they wouldn’t have been able to add otherwise.
Araujo began in the Cubs system as a starting pitcher in the Dominican League, and pitched in Boca Chica for the next three-and-change seasons. Araujo advanced by 2017 to a season spent largely in Myrtle Beach, and one game in Tennessee. Eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December 2017, he was left unprotected. The Orioles selected him after he had pitched 145 games and almost 340 innings in the Cubs system.
As usual, with MLB Rule 5 choices, Araujo was required to stay on the roster the entire 2018 season, or get run through waivers. He survived the campaign, but spent a bit too much time on the Disabled List, back when that was the term. As such, he needed to stay on the big league roster a bit longer. When the Orioles summoned Matt Wotherspoon to the big leagues a few days ago, Araujo was designated for assignment.
On Friday, Araujo cleared waivers, and the Orioles decided they still wanted Araujo in their system. Baltimore got their $50,000 waiver fee back from the Cubs, and offered $750,000 in spending space to the Cubs to get Araujo back. The Cubs have until mid-June to spend that space. As to whether the Cubs will spend it on someone from Mexico, or a player who they didn’t prioritize sooner from elsewhere, remains to be seen.
This will be a rare case of where the results of an international trade can be realistically assessed. The Cubs were close enough to an empty international piggy bank that any names signed before the June deadline are likely due to this trade. With the youth baseball season starting in the Dominican, the best eligible player or two that would be willing to sign now would be reasonable additions.
Lastly, the running narrative of “the Cubs being unwilling to spend any money” is a bit rubbish. The Cubs were willing to spend one amount of money to be able to spend another amount of money. A portion of the reason the Cubs are less willing to spend than before is that the punishments for spending over specified limits are larger than they used to be. Whether that works for the standard Cubs fan is a different question.
Araujo now is in the Orioles talent pipeline, and doesn’t require a 40-man roster spot. Look for him to be in the upper levels of their system. Best of success to the San Cristobal, Dominican Republic native.