This past weekend I wrote an article about Philadelphia Phillies rookie and 2014 Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera, making the point that he's played well enough to hold his roster spot despite making a jump from Double-A, and that barring some bizarre circumstances he will not be returned to the Rangers. The article concluded:
Herrera still has weaknesses to address but it seems apparent he can be a fine role player. He was a good Rule 5 pick, he will stick, and the injury-plagued Rangers could have used him.
It seemed like a straight-forward piece to me but readers in the comments section as well as some folks on Twitter felt that the comment was off-base and that the Rangers are better off with their own Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields.
It is certainly true that DeShields is playing quite well thus far, better than Herrera by most measures. He's slashing .283/.397/.396 with 10 steals in 11 attempts, production which is notably better than his .267/.362/.396 minor league career line and well ahead of his shaky 2014 season in Double-A (.236/.346/.360). Although the Astros had lost faith in him, the tools have always been there.
This is the pre-season take from the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book:
Although they had enough room on the 40-man roster, the Astros did not see fit to protect former first round pick Delino DeShields, exposing him to the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers snared him and it was a good thing to do, not that there are any guarantees here. DeShields still shows excellent speed and tapped into his home run power more often last year. He’ll also take a walk, but his strikeout rate crept upward and he never got the bat fully unlocked in the Texas League, leading to a disappointing season overall. That said, I do like this for the Rangers. He is still young at 22, the speed is real, he’s not punchless, he will take a walk, and he’s adapted to center field. It seems like they should be able to find a spot for him. Grade C+.
That still seems quite valid except he's actually doing it rather than just being a projection.
So yes, readers are right, DeShields was a great Rule 5 pick for the Rangers too and (barring something really paranormal) there's no chance at all that he'll wind up back in Houston.
However, DeShields' success doesn't negate the point that having the also-successful Herrera around would have been of benefit to a Texas roster marred with injuries. The choice wasn't between Herrera and DeShields. It was more Herrera vs. Adam Rosales or Jake Smolinski or Hanser Alberto.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course and the Rangers had their reasons at the time for exposing Herrera, just as the Astros did for exposing DeShields. For their part, by not protecting DeShields the Astros opened up a roster spot for their own Rule 5 pick, right-hander Jason Garcia, who was subsequently sold to the Baltimore Orioles for $75,000 ($25,000 above the $50,000 Rule 5 price).
Would you rather have DeShields, Herrera, Garcia, or $75,000? If this was some kind of four-way trade rather than unrelated Rule 5 transactions, who wins?