Draft Lottery, Rule 5 and more to watch at Winter Meetings

December 1st, 2023

Country music, hot chicken … and baseball transactions.

Nashville is certainly known for the first two, and after the days ahead, we might as well add the third too.

The Winter Meetings arrive Sunday in the Music City for what could be a lively stretch of moves that will turn up the temperature on the Hot Stove. While the focus is typically on the Major League effects, there will be plenty to track for followers of prospects and farm systems.

Here’s the MLB Pipeline guide to the Winter Meetings:


Getting club executives together in one place is a great recipe for deals, but it isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Last year’s biggest Winter Meetings swap involved Joe Jiménez going from the Tigers to the Braves for current Tigers No. 9 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy and left-hander Jake Higginbotham.

That said, some of the biggest prospect moves in recent memory -- like the Chris Sale blockbuster of 2016 -- came around this time, so it’s certainly possible more could fly next week. Juan Soto, Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes are some of the major names popping up in trade rumors, and any move for them could help their current clubs build out their farm-system depth.

As Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo discussed on the latest MLB Pipeline podcast, the Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, Reds and Rays have the prospects to swing big deals this year.

Draft Lottery

The second Draft Lottery arrives Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on MLB Network. In last year’s inaugural edition, the Pirates snagged the first overall pick (which later became LSU right-hander Paul Skenes), and the Twins made the biggest jump, moving from No. 13 to No. 5 (used on North Carolina prep outfielder Walker Jenkins).

The A’s, Royals and Rockies share joint-best odds of getting the No. 1 overall slot this time around at 18.3 percent each. The White Sox (14.7 percent), Cardinals (8.3) and Angels (6.1) round out the top six. The Nationals aren’t eligible for a lottery pick in 2024 after picking second last year, due to their status as a club that pays revenue-sharing money instead of receiving it.

A full breakdown of this year’s Draft Lottery odds and details can be found here.

Rule 5 Draft

A favorite of some prospectheads, the Rule 5 Draft will take place Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on MLB.com.

Rule 5-eligible players -- ones signed at age 18 or younger with five seasons of pro experience or ones who signed 19 or older with four seasons of pro experience -- had to be placed on their organization’s 40-man rosters by the Nov. 14 deadline or else be left open for this process. The Rule 5 Draft allows buried Minor Leaguers to get Major League experience with a new club, but they have to stick in The Show for a full season to remain with their picking team.

Last year’s Rule 5 Draft saw Thaddeus Ward (Nationals), Ryan Noda (Athletics), Jose Hernandez (Pirates), Blake Sabol (Giants), Mason Englert (Tigers) and Kevin Kelly (TB) stick for the 2023 season. That’s a solid success rate, given that most Rule 5 picks find themselves on the peripheries of Major League rosters as bench pieces or bullpen arms, and it’s worth wondering if more clubs will try to build off that by being more aggressive with the process next week.

Rule 5 picks only cost clubs $100,000, paid to the player’s original team, and if a player is taken off the Major League roster and clears waivers, he can be offered back to the first organization for $50,000. Roberto Clemente reigns as the most famous Rule 5 pick of all time, while Ryan Pressly, Garrett Whitlock and Anthony Santander represent more modern success stories.

Free-agent signings

Free-agent signings have some ripple effects on individual prospects and farm systems as a whole, but their most immediate impact might be felt in the Draft order.

Free agents who received and rejected the qualifying offer come with Draft compensation once they sign. If their previous club doesn’t receive revenue-sharing money and carried a payroll beneath the luxury tax in 2023, then that organization is eligible to receive a compensatory pick after the Competitive Balance Round B in 2024 after the player signs elsewhere. If the club exceeded the luxury tax and loses a qualifying free agent, their pick comes before the fifth round. If the club is a revenue-sharing recipient and the player signs for at least $50 million, then the compensation pick is between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A. If the deal is for less than $50 million, then the pick comes after Competitive Balance Round B.

This offseason, all seven players who received the qualifying offer declined it -- Shohei Ohtani, Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola. Nola re-signed with the Phillies, rendering Draft compensation, while Gray has already signed a three-year deal with the Cardinals worth $75 million. As a result, the Twins have already added a pick after the first round. The Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs and Padres stand to also receive Draft compensation unless they re-sign their top-ticket free agents.

Stay tuned next week and the rest of the offseason.