For people who follow prospects, baseball action never really ends. The Arizona Fall League takes us past the World Series. LIDOM and other winter leagues with up-and-coming stars really start to boil soon after, bringing us to Spring Training within a few weeks of pitchers and catchers reporting.
However, the clear highlight between November and March are the Winter Meetings. As for prospect news, anything and everything can and will happen at the Winter Meetings.
This year’s iteration will take place December 4-7 in San Diego, where Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and other members of the MLB Pipeline crew will keep a close eye on any transactions that could affect any of the 30 Major League organizations at every level.
Here’s an overview of what, when and how to watch:
When representatives from every team are gathered in the same spot, it’s a safe bet that some blockbuster deals will be made. The big league names involved make headlines, but prospects are usually a big part of the story. And, as a quick look through the biggest prospect trades of all time shows, a significant percentage of these swaps take place during the Winter Meetings.
A new addition this year, the Draft lottery will take place on Tuesdays at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT – live on MLB Network and MLB.com – and will determine which teams will sit in the catbird seat for the 2023 Draft . The Nationals, Athletics and Pirates each have a 16.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick, and most clubs have a chance.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on which clubs are preferred and which will need to be especially strategic to get the most out of their picks in next year’s Draft.
The Rule 5 Draft takes place on Wednesday at 5pm ET and will be streamed live on MLB.com. Designed to ensure big league-ready players get big league opportunities, the 100+ year old event allows teams to pick up certain minor league players who are not protected by placement on a 40-man roster . A team that selected a player in the Rule 5 Draft must pay the originating team $100,000 and keep the claimed player on the 26-man roster for the duration of the upcoming season or place him on full waivers. If the player approves the waivers, he will be returned to the club from which he was claimed for $50,000.
Granted, the most touted prospects tend to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft by either where they are in development (i.e. not yet ready for The Show and therefore very unlikely to stay on a 26-man roster) or by being placed on their team’s 40-man roster.
But there are steals to be had! Johan Santana, RA Dickey, Shane Victorino and Josh Hamilton were all Rule 5 Draft picks at one point. The Orioles grabbed Nestor Cortes from the Yankees in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, but returned him in April. MLB Pipeline recently broke down the top 10 Rule 5 picks from the past decade, and the list is full of names of players who are now making notable contributions to the Majors.
Major League free player signings may not come to mind when it comes to transactions that affect farm systems, but they have a direct impact on the Draft.
Any team that loses an eligible free agent, receives no money from revenue sharing, and kept its payroll below the luxury tax threshold in the 2022 season will be allowed an offsetting pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the Draft. Teams that have crossed the luxury tax threshold, but lose a qualifying free agent and do not receive any revenue-sharing funds will be allowed an offsetting pick before Round 5.
So, what does that mean in practical terms?
Of the 14 free agents who received eligible offers this year, two accepted (the Rangers’ Martín Pérez and the Giants’ Joc Pederson), one signed a new deal at home (the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo) and one already elsewhere signed (Tyler Anderson leaves the Dodgers to join the Angels), going into the Meetings with 10 unsigned.
That means the Cubs (because of Willson Contreras), Braves (Dansby Swanson) and Giants (Carlos Rodón) will get extra picks for the third round of the 2023 Draft if their free agents sign elsewhere.
The Yankees (for Aaron Judge), the Dodgers (Trea Turner, plus an extra pick already in the bag for Anderson), the Mets (Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo) and the Red Sox (Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi) would may end up with extra picks between the fourth and fifth rounds.