As the winter meetings begin today the Rule 5 draft is imminent. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, it works like this:

As in the amateur draft, the selection order of the teams is based on each team’s win-loss record from the prior regular season, each round starting with the team with the worst record and proceeding in order to the team with the best record. Any player selected under Rule 5 is immediately added to his new team’s 40-man roster; thus, teams who do not have an available roster spot may not participate in the Rule 5 draft. Players who are not currently on their team’s 40-man roster are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, but only after a standard exemption period has elapsed. See Selection eligibility below.

If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft—he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice. Once a Rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team’s 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment.

To prevent the abuse of the Rule 5 draft, the rule also states that the draftee must be active for at least 90 days. This keeps teams from drafting players, then placing them on the disabled list for the majority of the season. For example, if a Rule 5 draftee was only active for 67 days in his first season with his new club, he must be active for an additional 23 days in his second season to satisfy the Rule 5 requirements.

Any player chosen in the Rule 5 draft may be traded to any team while under the Rule 5 restrictions, but the restrictions transfer to the new team. If the new team does not want to keep the player on its 25-man roster for the season, he must be offered back to the team of which he was a member when chosen in the draft.

With that being said, it’s important to look at the current makeup of the team to look for areas where a guy can be selected and either make an impact or be hidden on the roster. This year being a year that should largely be a rebuilding year should help that to be a little more achievable than normal.

When I look through the roster I see a few areas where a guy can be selected and stick. Third base, with Aramis Ramirez gone, could be an area where the Cubs take a chance on a guy to see if he can run with the job opportunity in spring training. First base, with Carlos Pena apparently on the way out, could be another spot where we can take a chance. Whether you believe the Cubs are going to be players in the Fielder or Pujols derby or not, first base has been a spot where we’ve lacked depth over the last few years. Catcher is another spot. You can easily hide someone behind Geo.  The obvious other spots are on the pitching staff, whether that be as a starter or hidden in the bullpen. Either should be simple enough.

I don’t see the Cubs selecting more than one player, if any at all, so here are a few names I’d at least give a long, hard look at.

Cesar Cabral, LHP (Boston) – Obviously the organization he’d be coming from would come into play here, but Cabral gets guys out via the strikeout, which is something I always look for when looking at pitching numbers. 2011 saw a K/9 ratio of 11.5. He’s had some experience over the last few years closing out some games and may be able to be a part of the bullpen.

Peter Andrelczyk, RHP (Miami) – Originally drafted in the 32nd round of the 2007 draft, he’s posted some good numbers out of the bullpen in the Marlins minor league system, including a 2011 that featured a 9-3 record with an ERA of 2.26. My only concern is that his K/9 ratio has declined each of his first four years.

Chad Tracy, 1B (Texas) – No, this is not the guy you’re thinking of, but this guy did play in AAA last year and put up the following: .259 / .339 / .449 with 26 HR and 109 RBI. He’s versatile in the field with 150+ games played at 1B and LF. Perhaps he’s be an interesting fill in at first base for us.

Brad Meyers, RHP (Washington) – This is the guy I want. I want him as my # 5 starter in 2011. In his minor league career, here are his numbers:

I took the chance to pick the brain of our Washington Nationals blogger friend, Harper Gordeck on why Meyers was left unprotected. Here were his thoughts.

As crazy as it may sound he doesn’t fit well into the Nats plans. He’d likely be the 4th starter in AAA next year (behind Peacock, Milone, and Detwiler) and does not have an age advantage despite being only 26. Lannan is only a year older and Zimmermann, Strasburg, and the three guys I mentioned are all the same age or younger. Plus they have 5 guys (Purke, Meyer, Solis, Cole and Ray) they’d love to be able to move up to AA and AAA if needed. So as good as he seems he might not be in their top 10 pitchers projecting a couple years into the future

It also doesn’t help that Purke, Anthony Rendon, and Bryce Harper are all taking up roster spots even though none are likely to play more than a month and half in the majors next year. So really the Nats only have 37 spots on the 40 available and they got players to sign.

I also think the team might think that the somewhat recent injury and the necessity to keep him in the majors all season may be deterrents enough. A team would either have to project him as a starter all year or force him into a reliever role and what? put him back down in AAA at 27? You’re really starting to get out of prospect territory at that age.

Still I agree he probably will get taken. Some team won’t mind taking a chance on him starting all year. I’d keep an eye out each of the next couple years on the Nats minor league FAs and Rule V guys. With the depth of starters they are bound to have some useful pieces they can’t protect.

I don’t know what direction Theo and Jed will go with this draft, but it will be interesting. There is talent to be had if you can afford to wait them out.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail