Mets select RHP Oviedo in busy Rule 5 Draft

December 10th, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Mets swung a trade, lost a young starting pitching prospect and added significant upper-Minors depth on Thursday during a busy Rule 5 Draft.

In a common type of draft day deal, the Mets selected right-handed pitcher Luis Oviedo from the Indians with intentions to trade him to the Pirates for cash considerations, according to a source. Teams frequently use their Rule 5 Draft position to select players for other clubs, as the Mets have done multiple times in recent years.

The Mets also lost right-hander Dedniel Nunez to the Giants. A 2016 international signing out of the Dominican Republic, Nunez gave the Mets a glimpse of high-upside potential when he struck out 94 batters over 80 innings split between Class A Columbia and Class A St. Lucie in '19. But the Mets, with expectations of a tight 40-man roster this winter, did not protect him in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. A rebuilding Giants team will need to keep Nunez on its roster for the entire '21 season if it wants to retain his rights.

Rule 5 Draft regulations stipulate that selected players must remain on their new active roster or the injured list for at least a full season, or be offered back to their former clubs for half the $100,000 draft price. Teams can protect players from being drafted by placing them on their 40-man roster, but any player left unprotected is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after four or five professional seasons, depending on their age.

The Mets have not kept a Rule 5 draftee since Sean Gilmartin in 2014. While success stories such as Johan Santana do exist, it is rare for a Rule 5 Draft pick to make a significant impact in the Majors. New York has six open spots on its 40-man roster, but the club figures to use most (if not all) of them on free-agent or trade acquisitions this winter.

On Thursday, the Mets were more interested in using the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft to build up their roster depth in the upper 90s -- a task that ex-general manager Brodie Van Wagenen began in early November with the acquisition of 11 Minor League free agents, including veterans Mallex Smith and Arodys Vizcaino, and that new team president Sandy Alderson has since continued. Under Alderson’s direction, the Mets selected five players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, including two with Major League experience.

The most prominent of those may be , a former Dodgers shortstop who briefly debuted as a Rule 5 Draft acquisition of the Orioles heading into 2019. Jackson played only three games in the Majors that season, but he is a fifth-round MLB Draft pick from '15 who once ranked among the Dodgers’ Top 20 prospects. He hit 15 home runs, stole 22 bases and posted an .804 OPS for their Double-A affiliate in '18, but he struggled the following season at Triple-A.

Also featuring big league experience is , a Reds right-hander who appeared in five games in the Majors in 2018.

In addition to those two, the Mets selected Astros outfielder , Blue Jays right-hander Justin Dillon and Reds left-hander José Zorrilla in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft. They lost four Minor League players in that same phase: shortstop Sebastian Espino to the Blue Jays, catcher Wilfred Astudillo and right-hander Ezequiel Zabaleta to the Reds, and second baseman Mitchell Tolman to the Giants.