Since 2006, the only thing that has stopped the Orioles from making a selection in major league phase of the Rule 5 draft is it not taking place.
With the event returning in full at the winter meetings after 2021′s major league portion was canceled because of the MLB lockout, the Orioles continued their streak, selecting right-handed reliever Andrew Politi from the Boston Red Sox with the draft’s 17th slot and ninth pick. Baltimore did not make a second selection, and none of the other 29 teams drafted an Orioles prospect to their 40-man rosters.
Politi, 26, recorded a 2.34 ERA in 50 appearances for Boston’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2022, striking out 83 in 69 1/3 innings while allowing fewer than one base runner per inning. He’ll get the chance to compete for a job in the Orioles’ major league bullpen.
“We’re thrilled to have him,” Orioles director of pro scouting Mike Snyder said. “He was our guy.”
The Rule 5 draft allows teams to select eligible players who other organizations left off their 40-man rosters, with the drafting team required to keep its selections on its major league roster for a year or offer them back to their original clubs. Teams are not required to make picks and lose the ability to make further selections once they pass. Of the six players Baltimore has acquired via the Rule 5 draft under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, only right-hander Tyler Wells, the team’s second pick in 2020, remains with the Orioles.
Snyder said the Orioles had Politi on a list of no more than seven players, navigating the possibility that any or all of those players were taken ahead before their selection after having one of the first five picks in the previous three Rule 5 drafts. Snyder quipped “don’t tempt me” when asked whether Baltimore considered making a second selection, saying the Orioles were pleased to end the draft with Politi and one remaining opening on their 40-man roster.
“We like the pitch mix,” Snyder said. “We like the upper-level performance. He blew through Double-A and then dominated Triple-A, so we have a big league-ready arm. We have, we think, a power slider, a fastball with some hair on it — it’s tough for hitters to square up — and a curveball that can be very difficult, as well. He’s got deception. He’s improved his strike-throwing ability. He’s undergone some positive changes over the years, and we’re optimistic that in camp we will give him a shot to break camp with the team.”
The Red Sox also lost Navy product Noah Song in the draft, with the Philadelphia Phillies taking the right-hander with the 20th pick. The Phillies announced Song, 25, will not count toward their 40-man roster but will receive major league service time while on the military list as he continues his active duty service with the Navy.
In the draft’s Triple-A phase, Baltimore took three players and lost three. The Orioles selected New York Yankees right-hander Alfred Vega, Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Trey McGough and Texas Rangers catcher Randy Florentino. Right-hander Héctor Pérez, infielder Jonathan Araúz and catcher Cody Roberts were drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets and Phillies, respectively.
Vega, 21, struck out 22 of the 61 batters he faced with a 1.15 ERA for the Yankees’ Florida Complex League team. A Mount St. Mary’s product, McGough, 24, posted a 3.06 ERA in eight Triple-A appearances last year and has a 3.31 mark in his minor league career, though he’s coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Florentino, 22, slashed .242/.332/.353 for Texas’ High-A affiliate.
Pérez, 26, made one major league appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020 and spent 2022 with three Orioles affiliates. Araúz, 24, played in nine games for the Orioles after they claimed him from Boston, with a broken right finger effectively ending his tenure. Roberts is a well-regarded defensive catcher and joined the Orioles’ taxi squad for a handful of road series; the 26-year-old hit .271 with a .776 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A.