The 2019 Rule 5 draft, which is held each year to conclude the annual Winter Meetings, just concluded, and the Reds did indeed make a selection with one of their two open 40-man roster spots.
The #Reds have selected OF Mark Payton from the Athletics in the MLB Rule 5 Draft.— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) December 12, 2019
Payton, 28, slashed .334/.400/.653 with 30 HR and 97 RBI for Triple-A Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/G5wQPajz89
Payton was a minor league Rule 5 selection of the Athletics just last season, coming over from the Yankees organization.
As you can see in the tweet above, Payton played really well for Las Vegas in 2019 but still went unprotected by the A’s. He really thumped the ball last season, and has a career on-base percentage of .363 through six minor league seasons. Payton is primarily a corner outfielder, but he does have limited experience in center field at the minor league level.
He’s definitely on the older side for a pick like this, having just turned 28 years old last week. Nearly half of his career home runs (30 of 62) came in 2019 playing in the notoriously hitter friendly PCL, with the notoriously springy “new ball,” so there’s some caution to be had regarding the power totals.
As a Major League Rule 5 draftee, Payton must stay on the Reds Major League roster for the entirety of 2020, or else he is offered back to his original team. That becomes a little more palatable for the 2020 season, as MLB will have a 26th roster spot beginning this season. It’s possible the two clubs could also reach some sort of trade agreement in order to move Payton off the 26-man roster, as well.
I’m skeptical that this move sticks for Payton and the Reds, but that’s less of a value judgement about Payton than it is my expectations for the team. They should continue to add talent through free agency this offseason (though they’ve largely sat it out during the Meetings). Payton’s acquisition certainly provides depth should they decide to dip into the trade market, however, where any of their current outfielders could be on the move.