While the Chicago White Sox have a lot of work to do in order to get the franchise back on track after a dumpster fire of a 2023 season, one thing they had to keep in mind is the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 is a bit arcane in how it works, but the most basic explanation is that any minor leaguers who have been in the minors for 4-5 years and who are not on the 40 man roster are eligible to be picked by other teams in the Rule 5.
We could see more bats picked than usual this year given that the free agent market is pretty dismal when it comes to position players, but typically the majority of the players picked in Rule 5 drafts are arms. Pitchers are just easier to stash on a big league roster (which is where Rule 5 picks must end up) and taking fliers on high upside arms, especially for the bullpen, has been the predominant strategy here.
Chicago had some tough choices ahead of the Rule 5 protection deadline yesterday as they have several Rule 5 eligible prospects where an argument could be made that they should be protected. In the end, the White Sox settled on adding LHP Jake Eder and RHP Cristian Mena to their 40 man roster.
White Sox add Jake Eder and Cristian Mena to 40 man roster
Adding Eder was pretty much a no-brainer for the White Sox. Acquired in the Jake Burger trade at this year's deadline with the Marlins, Eder is a top 5 prospect in Chicago's farm system and was among the better pitching prospects in baseball before he had Tommy John surgery and missed the entirety of the 2022 season. Eder struggled after the trade, but his plus fastball and plus slider has enormous upside and getting a normal offseason should really help him going into 2024.
Cristian Mena is a bit more of a speculative roster addition, but he is also exactly the kind of high upside arm that typically gets selected in these Rule 5 drafts. Mena did make his way to Triple-A in 2023, but he only managed a 4.85 ERA in 27 starts this season. However, he struck out 156 batters in 133.2 innings of work and the swing and miss he gets on his curveball would have made him a very attractive option for other teams looking for pitching depth.
While the White Sox do have other guys that they could lose in the Rule 5 with Matthew Thompson near the top of the list there, it does appear as though they picked the right two guys to protect. Not only does it insure that they won't get stolen away, but both Eder and Mena can more easily factor into the White Sox's 2024 plans now that they are already on the 40 man roster.