The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to avoiding exposing them to the Rule 5 draft is Friday, November 20.
The Rule 5 draft takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings in December. The rule is designed to prevent teams from hoarding players in their minor league system for an infinite amount of time.
Any player who was 18 years old or younger on the June 5 before they signed their first professional contract, and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft since their signing date is eligible for exposure. In addition, if a player was 19 years old or older on the June 5 before they signed their first professional contract, and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since their signing date, he is eligible for exposure.
A player selected in the Rule 5 draft is assigned a fee of $50,000 to his original organization. That player must remain on his new team’s Major League active roster for the entire season. If he is removed from the active roster and goes unclaimed through waivers, that player must be offered back to his original organization for $25,000.
A recent case involving the Mets are Logan Verrett, who was selected in the 2014 Rule 5 draft by the Orioles. He was designated for assignment late in Spring Training, at which point he was picked up by the Rangers. He was designated soon thereafter, and was returned to the Mets for $25,000.
The Mets selected LHP Sean Gilmartin in the Rule 5 draft last winter, but he remained on the active roster for the entire season. If the Mets choose, they can now send him to the minors without having to return him to his original team.
Notable Mets players eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2015 are Brandon Nimmo, Robert Gsellman, Wuilmer Beccera, Matt Bowman, Travis Taijeron, Mickey Jannis, and Jeff Walters.
The Mets are unlikely to protect all of these players, however. The Mets are very likely to protect Nimmo, Gsellman, and Beccera, and could conceivably protect Bowman, who many in the organization is very high on.
Any player they choose to protect must be added to the 40-man roster. Their 40-man roster is at 36, so they can add four players without having to cut anyone. But if they add more, they must replace a player, either by designating a current active player for assignment or outrighting them completely off the 40-man roster and into the minor leagues.
Teams tend to strategize when determining whether or not to protect a player. For instance, they may be less likely to protect a player who is 2-3 years away since the claiming team must add that player to the active roster. But if such a player is a quality prospect – like Beccera – it would be foolish to expose him to the draft.
Potential roster casualties include Johnny Monell (cannot refuse optional or outright assignment), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (can refuse any assignment and become a free agent), and Ruben Tejada (can be non-tendered and made a free agent), and perhaps Darrell Ceciliani (cannot refuse optional or outright assignment).
There is never an easy path to protecting players from the Rule 5 draft, and it usually comes with some surprises with the Mets and a lot of other clubs. With a 40-man roster nearly full, the Mets could be headed towards several surprises as they endeavor to protect some of their better prospects who just are not ready for the big leagues.