Last Saturday as I sat in the Park in the Park watching the Padres get taken apart by the Colorado Rockies, I kept a mindful eye on my daughters, who were rolling down grass hills like discarded timber. I looked at them and thought one thing: bedtime. But there existed a problem for my little family. Everth Cabrera, on the verge of a cycle, was guaranteed one more plate appearance in the 9th inning. Needing only a double, my daughters and I (and Cabrera!), stood on the precipice of Padres history. I could not deny them the opportunity to witness a groundbreaking feat of arbitrary awesomeness so we stayed put on Petco’s grassy knoll.
As Everth came to the plate in the 9th, I explained the significance of the moment, and then positioned them for the diminutive shortstop’s final plate appearance.
And just like that it was over. Everth Cabrera drove a single up the middle, and finished the night 4 for 5, three-quarters of the way to the elusive cycle.
As Everth rounded 1st base I was overwhelmed, not by the denial of a historic moment, but by something else. It was my sense that Cabrera, who had been drafted from the same Colorado Rockies in the 2008 Rule Five Draft, was an anomaly. Was Everth Cabrera unique? Something told me that the answer to this question was yes.
Rule 5 Draft Refresher Course
The Rule 5 draft occurs each December and involves players who are currently under contract with a team in MLB.
-Players who are on a team’s 40 man roster are exempt from being taken in the Rule V draft.
-Minor Leaguers who are 19 or older and who have played 4 years of professional baseball are eligible.
-Minor Leaguers who were signed at age 18 and have played 5 years of professional baseball are eligible.
$50,000 goes to the team that the player was drafted from.
Players who are drafted must be put on the drafting team’s 40 man roster. The drafting team must also put the player on the 25 man roster for the entirety of the season where he must be active for at least 90 days. If the player hits the disabled list and does not meet that threshold, the player must be returned to the original team for a cost of $25,000. If the original team declines to pay then the player is waived and can sign with any team.
Players who are left off of a team’s 40 man roster tend to be young players at low levels of the minors (A, A+, AA) who just aren’t ready to compete at the Major League level. Therefore the risk for the drafting team is massive. To give a young inexperienced player a spot on the 25-man roster is a big gamble, one that doesn’t usually pan-out.
This brings us back to Everth Cabrera. The San Diego Padres drafted Everth Cabrera with the third overall pick in the 2008 Rule V draft.
Only 21 picks were made during this draft and only 19 of the league’s 30 teams drafted, as the Padres and Mets took fliers on two players each.
Of the 21 players chosen, only 2 stuck with their new team through the 2009 season. Only 9 of the players drafted ever saw time in a major league uniform.
The last player taken during the 2008 Rule Five draft, Rocky Cherry, had actually spent part of the 2008 season with the Baltimore Orioles. Cherry was a 28 year old, 6′ 5″ 225 lb RHP, who had been playing with the Orioles AAA affiliate (Norfolk). He seemed like a good gamble for the New York Mets, thinking he might have a chance to stick in the bullpen. But Cherry didn’t last. The Mets released him in April but he was quickly scooped up by the Red Sox where he pitched for 4 months before being given his release on August 20th. You know who signed him next? The San Diego Padres, that’s who. Cherry finished his season with the Portland Beavers and never suited up again.
Do you remember the name of Luis Perdomo? Perdomo, a RHP, was taken by the Giants from the St. Louis Cardinals but given his release prior to the start of the season. In came the Padres, scooping up the righty, and keeping him on the roster for the duration of the season. Luis Perdomo now pitches for the Twins.
To give you an idea of how bad the Padres thought they would be in 2009 they came close to having three Rule Five players on their roster for the entire season. The one player who didn’t stick: Ivan Nova. Selected but then returned to New York, Nova has gone on to pitch for the Yankees the last four season.
It’s not easy for Rule Five guys to stay with their new team. A 25 man roster is put under constant stress during a long, grueling season, and spots on the bench cannot simply be give to those who are unable to compete. Many are returned to their original team’s before April even begins and then out of baseball within a few short years.
But Everth Cabrera was unique. It is 2013 and he is still a Padre. Cabrera was not only a Rule Five player who survived a season with his new team but he continued on with them. He is the only Rule Five player from 2008 who can boast such a claim.
What does all of this mean? I’m not sure. It may be an indictment of the Padres organization that such a player could stick for as long as Everth Cabrera has.
Maybe there’s more on the horizon for Everth Cabrera. He did steal over 40 bases last year. And he has a nice arm to be sure. Heck, he’s even hitting .421 since the night he fell short of the cycle. I know it’s a small sample (24 PAs) but he’s got 2 HRS during the stretch! And he’s got 4 BBs, which is almost more than his Ks (4)!
Perhaps I’m still wrapped up in the moment that presented itself last Saturday night. A moment, where my daughters almost witnessed something that hadn’t happened in the existence of the San Diego Padres. Yeah, that’s probably it.