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History, rule and past selections

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The Atlanta Braves selected Dan Winkler in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Rule 5 Draft, its history, and it’s implications for ballclubs and players.

In two weeks Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos heads to Las Vegas for the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings.™ The main event of the last day of the meetings (December 13) is the Rule 5 draft.

It’s fitting that the draft takes place this year at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas because selecting a player is really a gamble. The Atlanta Braves gambled in the 2014 Rule 5 draft and eventually came up with a winner; Dan Winkler.

Ben wrote about the players protected from this year’s draftPatrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, Jacob Webb, and Alex Jackson – and more information will come as the day nears.

This post won’t discuss any individual player in-depth. It’s designed to provide some background, clarify the rules and demystify the process.

Many here voiced the opinion that teams should take players every year and hope for success. After all, the only risk is money, right?

Well, no. Like everything else in life, the Rule 5 draft looks simple, but every move creates ripples. It’s baseball’s Butterfly Effect.

Why Rule 5

It’s technically called “Annual Selection of Players,” but everyone calls it Rule 5 because that’s the rule number in the “other” book of  Major League Rules. It’s designed to prevent teams from hoarding players and grew from the old Bonus Rule.

In 1947 Baseball implemented the Bonus Rule.  Initially, the Bonus Rule required teams who signed a player to a contract of more than $4000 to keep that player on their 25-man roster for two full seasons. Today’s equivalent of that $4000 is about $45,361.

After two years the team could assign the player anywhere, they wanted. As you may imagine this held player contracts well under the $4000 mark.

In 1950 they rescinded the rule but in 1952 a committee brought it back to life; however, that caused a lot of issues, and teams found ways of circumventing it.

The Yankees famously made an agreement to the Kansas City Athletics to sign Clete Boyer.  Two years later the A’s traded Boyer to the Yankees as a PTBNL.

Other teams were not amused and in 1958 not only rescinded the rule, but did so retroactively. The Bonus rule reappeared after expansion in 1962 but vanished when the Rule 4 Amateur draft started in 1965.

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