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Some thoughts about who the Cubs might protect from the Rule 5 draft

The deadline for adding players to do that is this Friday.

Christopher Morel bats for the Eugene Emeralds in 2018
Eugene Emeralds

Friday, November 20 is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster so those players are protected from Rule 5 Draft selection. Some seasons, the Cubs have some arduous decisions to make. Other years, the decisions seem rather straightforward. Enter the 2020 process in the latter category. As per usual, Arizona Phil’s thoughts serve as a good springboard.

The Rule 5 Draft is one of baseball's ways of equalizing talent. In early December, teams can poach talent from other rosters for a cash fee. The hiccup is, the player, by and large, has to remain on the big-league roster the entire season. In the current environment of teams seeming to prioritize wealth retention over wins, will that alter Rule 5 activity? Or will the lack of statistical information over the last season push the teams' boldness level in leaving talent available this week?

Looking at players in advance of the Rule 5 Draft is often far less about current value than future value. For example, it's relatively unlikely that Christopher Morel will help the Cubs at all in 2021. Nonetheless, without much of a premium on 40-man roster spots, retaining Morel into the future seems useful with his offensive pop and third base defense looming for 2022 and beyond.

Similarly, I wouldn't wager very heavily on Cory Abbott being a vital cog in the 2021 rotation, but he's done enough in the pipeline to merit a roster spot. P.J. Higgins flashes just enough in offensive, defensive, and versatility value to justify a spot as a catcher-infielder. Another team might be able to use Higgins as the 13th bat, and with the universal designated hitter seeming likely in 2021, he could be hidden most nights in plain sight on an MLB bench to retain him for the future.

Beyond Higgins, Abbott, and Morel, two of the more logical options might be 2020 Rule 5 choices Trevor Megill and Michael Rucker. (In prior years, their addition would have already needed to be made. Rob Manfred and friends changed the rules. Again. Without advance warning.) Rucker seems to have more fastball velocity. As 95-plus plays, Rucker could be a fourth addition.

The reality is, with no publicly broadcast minor league games in 2020 to base opinions on, the Rule 5 choices are quite a bit more hunches this cycle. Prospectniks can't run searches on box scores of minor league games when none were played. Is it possible that the Cubs could prioritize an unexpected player, like last cycle when they added Manuel Rodriguez to the 40-man? Certainly, but with other teams facing roster crunches of their own (especially any team who is planning on increasing spending this offseason), keeping a few vacancies is likely advisable.

If that's to happen, recent Cubs Rule 5 addition (in the minor-league phase) Jerrick Suiter was tossing high-90s cheese. Is the pitch quality perceived in anywhere near the range of his velocity? Poached from the Pirates system, Suiter might be exactly what some team is searching for. Roster decisions made this week are about currently available information. Know your own talent best, and reap the rewards of that knowledge.

Lastly, with other teams more up against the limit than the Cubs, the team could add talent that's either on a 40-man roster, or would need to be added by the deadline on Friday. At the cost of a player not needing to be added, the Cubs could add a more familiar player. As usual, putting yourself in the shoes of the acquiring team can help explain the logic in a seemingly irrational trade over this week. Assessing talent accurately never goes out of style.

On days like November 20, the reasons the Cubs likely are a bottom-third system are exposed. Very few young hitters are ready to contribute. The pitchers are more perceived than understood, as well. Other squads will need to make trades to create 40-man roster space, and the Cubs aren’t there, currently. My guess is the Cubs will add Higgins, Morel, Abbott and one other, with the highest likelihood being Rucker.


Based on any knowledge you have of Jerrick Suiter, should the Cubs give him a 40-man roster spot?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    (63 votes)
  • 48%
    Yes, but only because spaces are available
    (112 votes)
  • 23%
    (55 votes)
230 votes total Vote Now