Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jake Cave & the Last Notable Rule 5 Pick to Be Returned to New York


The New York Yankees had a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason just like any other team and many of those decisions came down on the farm within their own organization. Many prospects and young players were added to the Yankees minor league depth and farm systems this year while just as many, if not more, were released, traded or left unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft. New York lost two notable players in the Rule 5 Draft in Evan Rutckyj and Jake Cave and as of last week the Yankees had received both of them back which got me thinking about the last notable Rule 5 loss the team received back and how it worked out specifically for the ball club.

Way back in the winter before the 2009 season the Yankees opted not to protect Nova leaving him unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft. The San Diego Padres selected Nova in the draft and gave him an opportunity to win a spot with the team during spring training but Nova was not up to the task and was ultimately handed back to New York after being designated for assignment and after clearing through waivers like both Cave and Rutckyj. How Cave and Rutckyj will respond is yet to be determined but we now have a five-year sample size to talk about in regards to Nova and whether he took the DFA personally and used it as motivation for the remainder of his career.

Nova stuck around with the Yankees before getting an opportunity in 2010 to showcase his talents in 10 games, seven of them starts. This was enough of a showcase for the Yankees to judge on that they handed Nova 28 more appearances as a starter (one as a reliever in 2011) in both 2011 and 2012 and were rewarded with a 16 win and 12 win season respectively. Nova did struggle a bit in 2015 and missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery but it’s fun to think what could have been had Nova not been given back to the Yankees. Remember that 2012 team was a team that was one broken ankle (Derek Jeter) away from the World Series and you have to wonder if they get there without the contributions of Nova. You never know.


I said all that to say this, some players like Nova will use the Rule 5 selection and eventual DFA as motivation to push them for the remainder of their career. No one likes to fail and some may take that as a failure. It’s not the failure that defined Nova and it’s not the failure, for lack of a better term, that will define Cave or Rutckyj but it will be how they react to the failure. Nova bounced back and had a solid couple of years and I’m hoping that Cave and Rutckyj, given the opportunities, can do the same. 

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