This is interesting that Josh Hamilton can be a free agent if he cleared outright waivers. Baseball america loves the move.
Do you think Josh Hamilton will stick on a major league roster through the entire season, or will the Reds have to offer him back to the Devil Rays at some point? If so, would Tampa Bay take him back?
I've been at Baseball America since the 1988 Winter Meetings, and I don't remember there ever being as much buzz surrounding a major league Rule 5 draft pick as there was when the Cubs took Hamilton this week and then traded him to the Reds. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, Hamilton ranked atop our 2001 Top 100 Prospects list before a lengthy series of injuries and substance abuse derailed a promising career.
Hamilton has just 50 at-bats total over the last four years—all of them coming in 2006 before he hurt his knee and needed arthroscopic surgery—and just 89 above Class A since turning pro. So he wouldn't be ready for the major leagues even if he suddenly regained all the talent he had earlier in his career.
That said, I could see him sticking with the Reds. For one, they only have four legitimate big league outfielders on their roster right now and they reportedly would like to trade one of those, Adam Dunn. Even if Hamilton can't make the club, it's possible Cincinnati could work out a trade with Tampa Bay for his rights, which would allow him to go to the minors. The Devil Rays were upset to lose him, not because he's a prospect, but because he needs stability and regular playing time. The Rays could decide it's in his best interests for them to make a deal with the Reds.
If that doesn't happen, Rule 5 mandates that Hamilton spend the entire 2007 season on the major league roster. (Cincinnati could stash him on the disabled list, but he needs 90 days on the active roster before he could be sent to the minors in 2008.) To send him down in 2007, the Reds would have to put him on outright waivers, allowing him to be claimed by any club, which would face the same guidelines.
Normally, Rule 5 picks have to be offered to their former team for half the $50,000 draft price, but Hamilton is an exception. Because he already has been placed on outright waivers, he can declare free agency if he clears them this time, though he also could accept his reassignment to the Devil Rays.
It's far from certain how all this will play out, but it did send a jolt through the Rule 5 draft and the potential payoff, however small the likelihood of the payoff, makes it a low-cost gamble worth taking.