Alright, fellow prospect and transaction geeks. This is a request for assistance in determining the status of the mysterious Rene Tosoni, currently appearing in Arizona Fall League boxscores near you. Seth Stohs and I disagree over whether Tosoni is Rule 5 eligible this year, so I want to lay out my case for him being eligible and see if anyone can shed some more light on the situation.
First, the basics. A player’s eligibility for the Rule 5 draft is determined by a couple of factors. First, you need to know the day the player signed a contract as opposed to when he was drafted (this tripped me up with Anthony Slama and David Bromberg earlier, because they were draft and follow players not signed until after the Rule 5 draft that followed their selection in the June draft — and if that statement confuses you, I don’t blame you!). Second, you need to know how old the player was when that contract was signed. And third (by far the easiest), you need to know whether that player is currently on the Major League 40-Man Roster.
So, what about Tosoni? Originally drafted by the Twins in 2004, he didn’t sign that year and went back into the draft pool. He was then drafted again by the Twins in 2005, but didn’t ink a deal until sometime in 2006 (under the old draft-and-follow process that is no longer possible under the new collective bargaining agreement — drafted players now must be signed by mid-August after the June draft, except in very limited circumstances). Tosoni was born on July 2, 1986, which means he turned 18 on July 2, 2004 and 19 on July 2, 2005. That’s the important split in dates, because players signed at the age of 18 or younger get an extra year before being eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Since Tosoni didn’t sign a contract until sometime in 2006 (the exact date is irrelevant), he was over 18 when he signed it.
My conclusion? Under the rules, players who sign their first professional contract at the age of 19 or over become eligible in the fourth draft following the signing of their contract. Tosoni was not eligible in 2006, 2007, or 2008 — but 2009 is the fourth Rule 5 draft since he signed, and by my reckoning that means he should be eligible this year. You can also look at this by counting the number of seasons that player was protected — Tosoni was exclusively available to the Twins in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, so they have maxed out his protected years.
Room for Ambiguity
So, why might I be wrong? First, it’s always possible that I’m misinterpreting the rule someplace. Seth and I agree on the vast majority of Rule 5 eligibles, though, so it seems as if we’re in general agreement on the basic rules. Having watched this process play out for a number of years, I also am pretty confident that I’m not misunderstanding something basic. Feel free to disabuse me of that notion if I’m totally off.
Second, I could have a vital piece of information wrong. If Tosoni’s birthday was actually a year later than I thought (in other words, if he were actually born in 1987), then he would have been 18 when he signed with the Twins in 2006. That would give him an extra year of eligibility.
Third, it could be argued that the relevant date is the draft date and not the signing date — but that is completely contrary to what the rule says, and would also mean that Anthony Slama and David Bromberg would be eligible. As Seth informed me, they are not eligible because they didn’t sign until the spring following their original selection in the June draft. In other words, this can’t be the source of any error here (unless Seth and I are both bolluxed up).
Fourth, and perhaps most likely, Tosoni did not play in 2006 due to a visa issue. To my knowledge, whether a player plays in a given year is irrelevant to the determination of Rule 5 eligibility. The relevant date is when the contract was signed, and everything else is superfluous. I don’t know if the fact that Tosoni had a visa issue would be considered — perhaps the Twins were able to gain an exemption of some sort on Tosoni for 2006 because of the visa issue, which would have bought him an extra year. I haven’t heard that, and don’t even know if that is possible, but this seems the most likely scenario to me simply because there could be a lot of arcane rules that are never reported to the general public but that the little elves in baseball front offices are aware of.
So, dear readers, what’s your take? Anyone have some light to shed on this? Thoughts? Feelings? Sighs of disapproval or yawns of boredom? Let me know your take.