This is a busy week for Major League Baseball. The Winter Meetings typically take up a significant amount of broadcast frequency, given the nature of the event. General Managers, agents, and media members are filling the Opryland Hotel and Convention center this week in Nashville.
The Winter Meetings are known for lots of free agent signings, trades, and rumors. Shohei Ohtani is the biggest fish this year, with some outlets projecting his eventual free agent contract to exceed $500 million.
There are a number of top-tier free agents left in addition to Ohtani, and Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is commanding significant interest from a number of teams. Despite never having thrown a pitch in the major leagues, his contract is expected to be north of $250 million. It would be the largest contract ever for an international free agent signing.
The biggest events of the week for the A's include the amateur draft lottery and the Rule 5 draft
In addition to the bustle of the free agent market, there are a couple events that pertain to the Athletics. On Tuesday afternoon, MLB is scheduled to draw the 2024 amateur draft lottery. The league implemented the lottery in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement as a measure to curb tanking by clubs.
Despite having the worst record in the majors, the Athletics are not guaranteed the first selection in the amateur draft next year. The A's do currently share the highest odds of getting the top pick, at 18.3%. There are two other teams, the Royals and the Rockies, who share those odds.
Last year, the A's were the only team in the top group to see their draft pick fall outside of the top 5. The A's had the second worst record in the league in 2022, but they were given the 6th pick in the draft.
They ended up selecting infielder Jacob Wilson, who had a standout year in his debut, but they missed out on consensus top players in Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews, and Wyatt Langford. The A's will find out on Tuesday evening which pick they'll have in the 2024 draft. Anything less than the 1 or 2 pick will be a disappointment.
In addition to the draft lottery, the Rule 5 draft is set to take place on Wednesday. The Rule 5 draft is for players who have spent five years in a major league system, but have not been added to their team's 40-man roster. It's designed to allow other clubs to give those players an opportunity and acquire talent they otherwise wouldn't have access to.
Due to their league-worst record in 2023, the Athletics hold the first pick in Wednesday's draft. Some of the top players available according to Baseball America ($) include corner infielder Deyvison De Los Santos, outfielder Hudson Haskin, left-hander Shane Drohan, right-hander Tanner Burns, and right-hander Justin Slaten.
The biggest realistic need for the Athletics is pitching, both starters and relievers. Given the potential loss of Ken Waldichuk, who is recovering from elbow surgery and whose 2024 status is in question, the Athletics could use some help in the rotation. The pitchers listed above are primary starters, but there are relief options in the Rule 5 draft as well.
The catch with the Rule 5 draft is that any player selected must remain on the active roster of the selecting team for the entire subsequent season. This makes it difficult to select injury projects and glove-first offensive players who aren't ready to hit major league pitching.
The Athletics used their pick in the 2023 Rule 5 draft to select first baseman Ryan Noda. Noda had a strong season for the A's last year, hitting 16 homers and posting a .770 OPS. Not all Rule 5 picks have success in their first year in the majors. Many have significant flaws, which is part of the reason they are eligible for selection in the first place.
This should be a busy week for the Athletics. The draft lottery will be a big event for David Forst and the A's. They need one of those top picks, considering the dearth of talent available across many levels. Whether they add talent via the Rule 5 draft will remain in question until the event on Wednesday.