Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 Draft is held annually during baseball's Winter Meetings. Teams must file a 40-man roster with the league office by November 20th. Any player who fits all of the criteria below is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft:
- Player is not on the 40-man roster
- Player has been in the minor leagues for at least 4 years if he was signed after age 19 (was 3 years before the 2006 CBA).
- Player has been in the minor leagues for at least 5 years if he was signed before age 19 (was 4 years before the 2006 CBA).
The Rule 5 Draft has been held every year since 1903, although the minor leagues abrogated the National Agreement in early 1919, causing no major league picks in 1919 and 1920. The draft's predecessor, the "Selection of Players" was first held in 1892. The draft was first mentioned under its current name in the 1941 edition of the major league rules.
The cost of drafting a player is $100,000 (this amount was $50,000 from 1985 to 2015, and $25,000 from 1958 to 1984). Any player drafted must remain on the drafting team's 25-man roster the entire first season he is with the drafting club (this rule also changed some time in the early 1980s; previously the drafted player had to remain on the drafting team's roster for the first 90 days of the season only).
At least 90 days of that first season must be maintained at "active status" (not on any disabled list). If a player cannot be active for 90 days in that first year due to a legitimate extended injury, whatever remains of the 90 day obligation MUST be met from the beginning of the following year, his second season with the drafting club.
In order to be sent to the minors in that first year (or a second season extension, due to a legitimate extended injury in the first year), the player drafted under Rule 5 must be offered back to the club from which he had been drafted for a $50,000 waiver fee (like the draft pick fee, this also doubled between 2015 and 2016). Should the team from which the draftee was taken not accept him back, it is the same as releasing the drafted player from that team's interest, and the Rule 5 obligations of the drafting team cease upon that release.
Occasionally drafting teams will return another player in lieu of the waiver fee if they wish to keep the drafted player in their organization, but send him to the minor leagues during that first year's obligation. This effectively negates the Rule 5 draft by converting the acquisition of the Rule 5 eligible player into a trade, rather than continuing with the Rule 5 obligations of the drafting team.
Minor league teams can also participate in the draft. AAA teams can draft any player eligible from AA for $24,000 (doubled from $12,000 in 2016). Players chosen in the minor league part of the draft do not need to return to the original teams for any reason. That segment of the draft is often referred to in accounts of transactions as the "Minor League draft." (Previously, AA teams could draft any players that are eligible from Class A for $4,000, but in 2016 the AA phase of the Rule 5 draft was eliminated.)
Most Rule 5 draftees are marginal players, but some turn into major league All-Stars. The best known Rule 5 players are Roberto Clemente, who was drafted from the Brooklyn Dodgers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the 1955 draft and fellow Hall-of-Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, picked in the 1910 Rule V Draft. Also, 2004 American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana (1999) and 2008 All-Star Dan Uggla (2004), 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton (2006) and 2010-2011 AL home run king Jose Bautista (2003) were Rule 5 draftees.
The "old" First-Year Player Draft
From 1959 to 1969, the major leagues organized a second, parallel, draft akin to the Rule 5 Draft. The First-Year Player Draft allowed teams to draft any player who had completed one year in professional baseball and was not on a team's 40-man roster. The idea behind the draft was to serve as a lever to push signing bonuses down, since teams would risk losing these high-priced signees after one year. Minor league teams at the AAA level could draft from lower-level leagues, and so forth all the way down the minor league chain. As in the Rule 5 draft, players drafted by a major league team had to spend the entire next season on the team's 25-man roster. Thus, the first such draftee, P Mike Lee spent the entire 1960 season with the Cleveland Indians, pitching only 9 innings.
- Cliff Blau: "The Real First-Year Player Draft", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 39, Number 1 (Summer 2010), pp. 68-71.
- Jonathan Mayo: "Here are the 10 best Rule 5 Draft picks of past decade", mlb.com, November 28, 2022. 
- Andrew Simon: "From Hack to Herrera: A history of the Rule 5 Draft: Complete overview of event that's been giving players a shot since before the World Series", mlb.com, December 11, 2017. 
- Article from mlb.com
- Article on Rule 5, 1903-1940, in The Hardball Times
- Article on Rule 5, 1941-1966, in The Hardball Times
- Article on Rule 5, 1967-1980, in The Hardball Times
- Article on Rule 5, 1981-2007, in The Hardball Times
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