In Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 draft on Thursday, the Mets selected Burch Smith from the Tampa Bay Rays only to trade him to the Kansas City Royals a few minutes later. New York received cash considerations for its trouble.
Smith, a tall right-handed pitcher from Texas, began his professional career with the Padres in 2011 before being moved to Tampa Bay in the same deal that sent Wil Myers to San Diego and Trea Turner to Washington. That trade occurred in December 2014, but Smith didn’t pitch for the Rays until this past year due to Tommy John surgery. The 2017 campaign was a success for Smith, as he surpassed Rookie and High-A ball to reach Triple-A before the end of the year.
At the highest level of the minors, Smith only made three starts, but he made a solid impression with 19 strikeouts, four walks, and just three runs allowed in 16.1 innings. Back in 2013, Smith made his only major league appearances, starting seven games and making three relief outings for San Diego. Although he struck out more than 11 batters per nine during the sample, Smith struggled with walks and home runs, finishing with a 6.44 ERA that season.
The strong minor league showing in 2017 could foreshadow another shot at the majors for Smith, but that shot will not come with the Mets. Instead, Kansas City will get a chance to watch the 27-year-old shine. Per Rule 5 rules, if the Royals do not keep Smith on their 25-man roster for the entire 2018 season, they must waive him. If he passes through waivers, the Rays would then get a chance to re-sign their old prospect.