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Astros will wait until deadline to complete 40-man roster

Club has until 10:59 p.m. CT Thursday to decide which players to protect
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Astros will use as much time as necessary to decide which players to protect in advance of setting their 40-man roster ahead of next month's Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. Teams have until 10:59 p.m. CT Thursday to set their rosters.

The Astros' roster currently stands at 38 players following the trade two weeks ago that brought catcher Hank Conger to Houston, and the club will leave a few spots open to sign free agents. They would also have to leave a spot to add a player in the Rule 5 Draft, though general manager Jeff Luhnow hinted Wednesday they might not make a selection this year.

HOUSTON -- The Astros will use as much time as necessary to decide which players to protect in advance of setting their 40-man roster ahead of next month's Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. Teams have until 10:59 p.m. CT Thursday to set their rosters.

The Astros' roster currently stands at 38 players following the trade two weeks ago that brought catcher Hank Conger to Houston, and the club will leave a few spots open to sign free agents. They would also have to leave a spot to add a player in the Rule 5 Draft, though general manager Jeff Luhnow hinted Wednesday they might not make a selection this year.

"We use all the time that we have to make the decisions, to make sure we talked it through adequately and we understand what the implications are," he said. "We don't really make a final [roster] decision until the very end."

Players not on a team's 40-man roster who signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or those who were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. This year's Rule 5 Draft will be held Dec. 11 at the end of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

"You have to prepare for the possibility of signing some free agents prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which means that you've got to leave a couple of spots open," Luhnow said. "You have to take a guess as whether that's one, two, three or four spots you need to leave open. And you've got to consider the risk of leaving players exposed to the Rule 5, and that's really the biggest consideration."

One of the factors the Astros take into consideration when deciding which players to protect is whether that player is likely to stick on another team's Major League roster. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team's 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.

"We've been fortunate that none of the players we've left unprotected [who] have been selected in the Rule 5 Draft were what we felt was a big loss," Luhnow said. "We've been pretty fortunate. It's a high bar to be able to stick in the Major Leagues all year. We take into consideration the probability that they will be able to do that as part of our thinking."

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Among the notable players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft are hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz, the team's seventh-ranked prospect, right-hander Vincent Velasquez (No. 8) and former first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr. (No. 12), an outfielder. Right-hander Tyson Perez and left-hander Mitch Lambson, both of whom played in the Arizona Fall League, are also eligible.

"I would anticipate we will be adding a few players to the roster between now and [the] deadline," Luhnow said.

Other names include infielders Jonathan Meyer, Chan Moon and Ronald Torreyes and outfielders Telvin Nash, Ariel Ovando and Danry Vasquez. Houston signed Ovando for $2.6 million as a 16-year-old in 2010, but he's been a bust. Vasquez was acquired from the Tigers in last year's Jose Veras trade. Catchers Jobduan Morales and Robert Pena are also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Again, the Astros have to weigh the likelihood any of these players would stick on a Major League roster.

Luhnow said he was unsure if Houston would make a pick in the Rule 5 Draft. Last year, the Astros selected left-hander Patrick Schuster with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft and traded him to the Padres to complete a previous deal with San Diego in which they acquired right-hander Anthony Bass.

"I'm not sure it's something we're going to participate in this year," Luhnow said. "It depends who's out there and what kind of fit they are on our ballclub. It was a lot easier to do two years ago and three years ago, and we ended up with Josh Fields [in 2012] and Marwin Gonzalez [in '11] -- two pretty good players."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros