What if Roberto Clemente was a Brooklyn Dodger? How about if Johan Santana was pitching for Florida?
These scenarios could have occurred if the players weren't taken in the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft occurs each December, allowing other teams to draft eligible players who have not been added to their original clubs' 40-man roster. The draft was put in place to keep teams from stockpiling too many young players in the minors. A Rule 5 pick has to spend the entire season on the major league roster or be placed on waivers. If he clears, the pick must be offered back to his original team.
Though most Rule 5 picks strike out, some have been a hit with their new teams.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE: 3,000
The Hall of Famer was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 but was left unprotected in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. The Dodgers? loss was Pittsburgh?s gain as he hit .317 with 240 home runs and 1,305 RBIs. The 1966 NL MVP reached the 3,000-hit milestone before his life was tragically cut short in a plane crash.
Blair was snagged by Baltimore from the Mets in the 1962 first-year draft, the precursor to the Rule 5. After spending the majority of his career with the Orioles, the center fielder found his way to the Yankees in the late 1970s. Blair’s last year was 1980 and he finished his career with a .250 average, 134 home runs and 171 stolen bases. He won eight Gold Gloves.
Evans was selected by Atlanta from Oakland in the 1968 Rule 5 draft and went on to have a stellar career for the Braves, San Francisco and Detroit. Despite the low .248 career batting average, Evans hit 414 home runs with 1,354 RBIs.
Oakland plucked Trillo from Philadelphia in the 1969 Rule 5 draft. The infielder went on to be selected to four All-Star games, be awarded three Gold Gloves and be given two Silver Sluggers during a 17-year career that saw him hit .263. Trillo played for Oakland, the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Montreal, San Francisco and Cincinnati. He was named the 1980 NLCS MVP while helping lead the Phillies to a World Series title.
The lefty reliever was plucked by Chicago from Philadelphia in the 1976 Rule 5 draft. He pitched to a 70-63 record and 3.38 ERA and compiled 147 saves during a 13-year career, pitching mainly for the Cubs and Detroit, with a pit stop back in Philadelphia. He was a three-time All-Star and won the 1984 AL MVP and Cy Young awards after going 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves for the Tigers.
Bell was snatched by Toronto from Philadelphia in the 1980 Rule 5 draft. The left fielder appeared in three All-Star games and won the 1987 AL MVP award, when he hit .308 with 47 home runs and a league-leading 134 RBIs. Bell retired in 1993 after playing for Toronto, the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs. He left with a .278 career average, 265 home runs and 1,002 RBIs.
Seattle grabbed Morgan from Toronto in the 1984 Rule 5 draft. After debuting in 1978 with Oakland, the righty starter/reliever went on to a 22-year career that spanned four decades. Morgan is one of only 29 players in baseball history to have played in the majors over four decades. His last season was 2002, and he ended his career 141-186 with a 4.23 ERA. He played for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, Seattle, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Texas and Arizona. He pitched for 12 major-league teams, which ties the major-league record.
The Chicago White Sox acquired Bonilla from Pittsburgh in the 1986 Rule 5 draft. A six-time All-Star, Bonilla would play 16 seasons for eight different teams and hit 287 home runs with 1,173 RBIs and a .279 average.
Seattle plucked Nelson from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the minor league portion of the 1986 Rule 5 draft. The righty reliever went on to pitch 15 seasons for the Mariners, Yankees, Texas and Chicago. He won four World Series with the Yankees, pitching in New York from 1996-2000, with another brief stint in 2003. He was 48-45 with a 3.41 ERA in his career.
Batista was taken from Montreal by Pittsburgh in the 1991 Rule 5 draft. He’s played in the majors for 17 seasons, transitioning between starter and reliever. He found his most success with Arizona, where he won a World Series in 2001. Batista, who has a 101-112 record and 4.48 career ERA, last pitched for the Mets where he won two games with a 2.64 ERA at the end of the 2011 season.
Seattle grabbed Vina from the Mets in the 1992 Rule 5 draft. The second baseman compiled an average of .282, on-base percentage of .348 and 116 stolen bases in 12 seasons. He hit .250 with a .372 on-base percentage with the Mets in 1994. He was selected to one All-Star game and awarded two Gold Gloves.
The Australian born lefty reliever was taken by Philadelphia from Toronto in the 1992 Rule 5 draft. He played 10 seasons before retiring in 2003 with a 30-36 record and 4.04 career ERA. He pitched for the Yankees from 1996-1998, winning two World Series, and had a stint with the Mets in 2003.
Montreal nabbed Mota from the Mets in the minor league portion of the 1996 Rule 5 draft. In 13 seasons, Mota is 39-44 with a 3.91 ERA out of the bullpen. Mota hit Mets catcher Mike Piazza with a pitch in 2002 spring training, leading to an altercation. Both players were suspended five games during the regular season. Mota eventually wound his way back to the Mets in 2006 and 2007, and helped San Francisco to a World Series title in 2010.
Texas picked up Podsednik from Florida in the 1997 Rule 5 draft. Podsednik finished second in the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year voting to Dontrelle Willis. The former All-Star stole 301 stolen bases in 10 seasons and did not play in the majors during the 2011 season.
Houston stole Santana away from Florida in the 1999 Rule 5 draft. His stay was brief in the Astros organization as they traded him to Minnesota the same day. Santana, a two-time Cy Young winner, is 133-69 with a 3.10 ERA in 11 seasons with the Twins and Mets.
Anaheim selected Turnbow from the Phillies in the 1999 Rule 5 draft. In seven seasons with the Angels and Milwaukee, Turnbow went 17-16 with a 4.30 ERA, almost exclusively out of the bullpen. He was an All-Star in 2006 with the Brewers, when he went 4-4 with a 4.74 ERA and 23 saves in the first half.
Originally drafted in the 20th round of the 2000 draft by Pittsburgh, Bautista was picked by Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft. Bautista, a two-time All-Star, has become one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball the last two years with Toronto, hitting 97 homers and driving in 227 RBIs.
Toronto plucked Werth from Baltimore in the 2001 Rule 5 draft. The two sides later completed a trade to secure Werth’s rights with Toronto. Werth did little in his career until he signed with Philadelphia in 2007. From 2008-2010 he posted 20+ home run totals (36 in 2009) and on-base percentages greater than .360. He helped the Phillies to the 2008 World Series. After 2010, Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with Washington.
Ayala had already been a member of two teams (Colorado and Arizona) when Montreal selected him from the Diamondbacks in the 2002 Rule 5 draft. The righty reliever pitched for the Expos and Nationals and later went on to tours with the Mets, Yankees, Minnesota and Florida. He’s 31-41 with a 3.47 career ERA and went 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA for the Yankees in 2011. He was less successful as a Met, posting a 5.50 ERA as a midseason acquisition in 2008.
“The Flyin’ Hawaiian” was twice selected in the Rule 5 draft. San Diego plucked him from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, but he was returned to LA after just 36 games. Philadelphia grabbed him in 2005 and initially offered him back to the Dodgers. But they declined and the Phillies retained his rights. Victorino became a full-time player midway through the 2006 season and has gone on to earn three Gold Gloves in center field and two All-Star appearances. He owns a career batting average of .279 and has 162 stolen bases. Victorino was a key member of the 2008 World Series team.
Arizona lost Uggla in the 2005 draft to Florida, where he finished third in the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year voting. Uggla has hit 27 or more home runs every year since his debut, and won the Silver Slugger award in 2010.
Texas selected Ogando, then an outfielder, from Oakland in the 2005 Rule 5 draft. Texas converted Ogando to a pitcher, though he didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, due to visa issues. Ogando served as a reliever in 2010, going 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA. His success prompted the Rangers to convert him once again, this time into a starting pitcher. Ogando succeeded in the role, going 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 2011.
Hamilton was drafted by the Chicago Cubs from Tampa Bay in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, but was then traded to Cincinnati, where he made his major league debut in 2007. Hamilton was traded once more to Texas where he has batted .311 with 99 home runs and 378 RBIs over the last four seasons.
Soria was taken by Kansas City from San Diego in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. The righty became the Royals’ closer, a role in which he has 160 saves in five seasons. Soria has just a 2.40 ERA, is a two-time All Star and finished 10th on the 2010 Cy Young Award balloting.
Pittsburgh plucked Meek from Tampa Bay in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. The righty reliever has been a key part of the Pirates bullpen over the last three seasons. He was selected an All-Star in 2010, when he went 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA. In four seasons, his career ERA is 3.08.