Last December, while most Yankees fans were focused on sneaking slugger Andres Chaparro through the Rule 5 Draft, their loud exhales obscured the fact that they might've gotten away with keeping a hidden mound gem, too.
This December, they probably won't be so lucky.
Chaparro is already gone, having signed with the Diamondbacks after being sent into minor-league free agency after a down year. But the other player the team got away with hiding -- Matt Sauer -- has been left unprotected yet again, and is far more likely to be selected and stashed this time around.
This winter's Rule 5 Draft will begin Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. EST as part of the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville. It's a slippery slope, of course; anyone left unprotected, if selected, will need to stay on the claiming team's active MLB roster (or IL) for the entire season, lest they be returned to where they came from. There's a good chance the Yankees will lose some talent -- they always do -- but can get it right back if the pitchers and hitters who depart can't be stashed or don't play to their true talent levels.
According to MLB Pipeline, Sauer -- complete with an injury history and 17-strikeout peak -- could easily be swiped. As a potential innings-eating relief option, there's a good chance he sticks, too, especially on a team like the A's or Pirates looking for viable pitching of any kind.
Yankees could lose starter Matt Sauer in Rule 5 Draft
Here's what Pipeline wrote about Sauer, who's been tantalizing teams since being selected as a second-rounder back in 2017:
"Injuries have sidetracked Sauer since he signed for $2,497,500 as a 2017 second-round pick from a California high school, as he had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and missed two months with a forearm strain this season. When healthy, he logged a 3.42 ERA, .196 opponent average and 83 strikeouts in 68 1/3 Double-A innings thanks to a riding 93-95 mph fastball and a tight mid-80s slider."- MLB Pipeline
A near-immediate Tommy John surgery and the cancellation of a full season in the aftermath of your recovery will kill any prospect's momentum, though Sauer stole the spotlight again in 2022 with the aforementioned 17-strikeout game with Double-A Somerset.
With so many of MLB's bottom-feeders picking early in the Rule 5 shuffle, each armed with significant space on their 26-man rosters, it would be a surprise if Sauer wasn't swiped and at least given a chance to compete for a role in spring training.