Ryan Flaherty was left off the Cubs’ 40 man roster, and as a result he is exposed to the Rule 5 draft later this week. I think he is all but guaranteed to be selected in that draft. If he is selected, the Cubs will receive $50,000 from the team that chooses him. If that team keeps Flaherty on their 25 man roster all season, then they get to keep him. If not, they can work a trade with the Cubs for him, or offer him back to the Cubs for $25,000.
Flaherty is a defensively versatile infield / outfielder who bats left handed and shows some decent power. That kind of guy is tailor made for a major league bench. I think that whatever team selects Flaherty will have no trouble keeping him around all season. Flaherty’s days as a Cub are likely over.
But he is not the only one the Cubs could lose.
A pretty good list of all the players available in the Rule 5 draft can be found on Baseball News Hound. Notice that the Cubs’ list is much, much longer than the list for most other teams. This is a side effect of the Cubs’ very deep farm system. There is a bunch of talent in the system, and it is possible the Cubs could be absolutely looted before the draft concludes. However, due to the depth of the system, that might not be a bad thing. Other than Flaherty there are really only two players on that list that concern me.
Dae-Eun Rhee might be the best pitching prospect in the draft, but arm surgery has delayed his progression. As a result, he has never pitched above High-A Daytona. The upside on Rhee is solid number three starter, but he is far from being ready to take on that job in 2012. If Rhee is selected in the draft, he will be ticketed for a major league bullpen. The team who claims him will try to keep him in the bullpen for a season, and then send him back to the minors for a year or two in order to stretch him into a starter. It’s not a bad plan, but I question whether any team could afford to keep him on the roster for a full season. Again, he has never pitched above High-A. This is not a major league ready pitcher. Due to his high upside, I’ll give him a 50% chance of being taken, but I think there is better than an 85% chance he is returned to the Cubs should that happen.
Ryan Searle is a different story altogether. After coming off a successful stint with the Australian national team, his stock has never been higher. Unlike Rhee, he is essentially major league ready. If he stays with the Cubs, he is my dark horse candidate to leave spring training as the Cubs fifth starter. If he is selected, I think he could work in a rotation or out of the bullpen. His ceiling is probably that of a back of the rotation guy, but teams may be reluctant to count on a Rule 5 pick in that position. If he struggles they would not be able to send him down to the minors in order to straighten himself out. His roster status may be safer in the bullpen, but I’m not sure his stuff will work as well in relief. Because he is more advanced, I think it is much more likely that he will be selected (85%) and that he will stick with the team that takes him. If he breaks camp with his new team, the Cubs will probably not be getting him back.