LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Phillies have long liked Carlos Tocci, an outfielder they signed from Venezuela for $750,000 before investing six seasons in his development. But they left him unprotected from the Rule 5 draft in the previous two off-seasons and did it again this off-season, knowing that some team could pluck him from their organization.
The Texas Rangers did just that Thursday morning.
Tocci, 22, will have a chance to make the Rangers in spring training. He must spend the entire season on Texas’ 25-man roster or be offered back to the Phillies. A scout from an American League team said Tocci has a chance to stick as a fifth outfielder in the majors because of his deft centerfield defense. But there have always been concerns about his strength and ability to hit big-league pitching.
“Sometimes you lose them. Selfishly, we hope we get him back,” Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. “It’s always a good experience for players, especially those who have never been in big-league camp, to get that opportunity to be around a big-league team. It’s a calculated risk every time. Last year, we protected 11 guys. You can’t protect 11 guys every year.”
The Chicago White Sox drafted Tocci with the fourth pick in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft and then traded him to Texas. He had a .727 OPS in 130 games last season at double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley.
With the third pick, the Phillies drafted righthander Nick Burdi from Minnesota and flipped him to Pittsburgh for additional international bonus money. The pick cost the Phillies $100,000. They acquired $500,000 in slot money from the Pirates, according to a source.
That money is applied to the current signing period, which will expire June 15. The Phillies have added money at various points in the last few months. They used some of it to sign Abrahan Gutierrez, a Venezuelan catcher who was declared a free agent last month as a part of Major League Baseball’s punishment of the Atlanta Braves. Gutierrez signed for $550,000, but only $350,000 counted against the Phillies’ pool.
With the money added Thursday, the Phillies have about $1.05 million to spend. They could target another of the unsigned Braves players, spread it on a bunch of smaller international signings, or use it in another trade.
“Our international department, with Sal [Agostinelli] and his guys, they’re a weapon for us,” Minniti said. “So for us to have the ability to give them more money to spend — the rate of return is not always that high when you’re signing players — but we give ourselves a chance.”