Jamie Hoffmann is not your typical Rule 5 pick. But then the New York Yankees aren't exactly the kind of team that uses Rule 5 a lot.
A few paragraphs of definition: Jamie Hoffmann is a 25-year-old outfielder, born and raised in New Ulm, who reached the majors last season for 14 games with the Dodgers and split the rest of the year between the Dodgers' Triple A and Double A affiliates.
Rule 5 is intended to keep clubs from burying talent in the minors. It applies to players with more than four years in pro ball who aren't on the parent club's 40-man roster. Any other team can draft such players for a nominal $50,000. The catch is that they have to keep the drafted player on their 25-man (active) roster all season.
In effect, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in removing Hoffmann from their 40-man roster last September, said he wasn't one of their 40 best players; the Yankees, in trading for the first pick in Thursday's Rule 5 draft and using it to select Hoffmann, are saying they expect him to be one of the 25 best.
Generally, Rule 5 picks are fliers taken by bad teams looking to expand their talent base. It's how the Twins got Johan Santana out of the Houston Astros organization back in December 1999. Its easier for weak teams to carry a talented but too-raw player; the 2000 Twins were going to lose 90 games no matter who they had on their pitching staff. Santana had an ERA of 6.49 that year. That pick paid off in the long run, but it didn't help immediately.
That's not a tradeoff the Yankees are interested in. They want wins now. And they think Hoffmann can help as a reserve outfielder.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted this Thursday: The Yanks intend to head into spring training assuming they'll keep Rule 5 pick Hoffmann on the roster.
OK, consider this: The Yankees now have Nick Swisher in right, Curtis Granderson in center, and (at the moment) Melky Cabrera in left, although it seems almost inevitable that Johnny Damon will re-sign with the Bombers once they've jammed his lack of leverage down his throat. When/if that happens, their outfield reserves will be some combo of Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Hoffmann.
There's probably only room for two of them on the 25-man roster. I would expect Gardner to be the odd man out.
Addition: This link contains an intriguing detail of how it was that Hoffmann made through waivers when removed from the Dodgers' 40-man roster Sept. 1.