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"Rule 5": Is This The Year To Keep 'Em Both?

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I know, I know, don't overreact to one inning thrown in the first week of March. I promise, I didn't. But I did write this just after Jay Marshall picked up the save on Sunday with a very impressive 9th inning. Marshall is an intriguing prospect, as he throws left-handed from a near-submarine delivery, a la Mike Meyers, Mike Venafro, or Kelly Wunsch. Marshall, like Ryan Goleski, is a "Rule 5" pick who must either be on the major league roster all season or else returned to his former team. Unlike Goleski, however, Marshall has not played above single-A ball.

Today, I'm going to argue that the A's are the perfect team to keep not one, but two "Rule 5" picks on the active roster. This is an organization that customarily leaves 2-4 guys to rot on the bench until the other 21-23 players are day-to-dead anyway. So to "waste" two roster spots on two talented young players who can help you from time to time, and can be Perezified in between? Not that big a deal. It just means that as roster spots 24 and 25 are finally needed at some point, you will have to turn to Goleski and Marshall instead of, say, Halsey or Witasick, Kielty or Perez. In other words, you are forced to turn to guys who are less experienced but possibly more talented. And then your farm system, the weakest it has been for a long time, suddenly looks a lot better when you consider that two of the brighter prospects are not even toiling for any of the A-AAA teams in 2007--only because they are "skipping a grade" and serving as major-league understudies.

Of course, the cost of keeping these two "Rule 5ers" is steep. It probably means dropping two from the Witasick, Halsey, Perez, Johnson, Durazo group, leading to less "long-relief depth" and/or less "infield depth" and/or less "bench depth from the left side".

But Billy Beane says that each year, the A's are simultaneously aiming to build for now and for the future. 23 for now, 2 for the future...In a year when the A's need to focus on rebuilding the farm system, if the front 23 are good enough to win now, could Goleski and Marshall come north with the big league club in April? Probably not, but it's interesting to ponder.