LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Russell Wilson changed teams Thursday morning. No, the Seattle Seahawks didn't drop their Pro Bowl quarterback. That would be loopy, and actionable in court. Wilson changed baseball teams. The Texas Rangers selected Wilson in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft, taking him after the Colorado Rockies organization left him unprotected in their minor leagues.
The Rule 5 draft annually ends the winter meetings, where major league teams and their minor league affiliates come to talk trade, free agency and chum around at the bar. This season's meetings were light on official transactions, but Wilson's name popping up is a highlight. Here's his baseball card, which proves he's for real on the diamond.
Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, throwing for 23 touchdowns and ranking fifth, between Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, in passer rating for 2013. He also averages 5.7 yards per rush and is a good bet to lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, experts say. He's a stud — in the NFL. In baseball, he's just one of the guys, one of the many second basemen filling up rosters. A great accomplishment in itself, but much less newsworthy.
In 379 career plate appearances in 2010 and 2011 in Class A, he has batted .229/.354/.356 with 19 stolen bases, five homers, nine triples and eight doubles. But he hasn't played minor-league ball since. Something about being busy in the NFL. So he's more Michael Jordan than Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders when it comes to playing two sports. But that doesn't mean he should bag his dream of playing baseball, which he still thinks about, it has been said. It's hard to imagine him riding a bus in the minors, but get this:
The Rangers say it's not a P.R. stunt. And Wilson reportedly is excited about the opportunity.
#Rangers GM Jon Daniels spoke to Russell Wilson this morning. "He was excited," Daniels said. "He wants to come to camp."
— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) December 12, 2013
Here's what else the Rangers say, via the Associated Press:
"At the end of the day, he obviously has a lot bigger things that he's working on right now," Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller said, "and we don't want to interrupt with that aspect of it. But if at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we felt like it would be a positive to have him with us."
Picking him cost the Rangers $12,000, a drop in the bucket for a major league team. Unlike the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, there are no roster provisions. Wilson, who will be assigned to the Class AAA roster at Round Rock (Texas). He doesn't have to make the team out of spring training or risk being sent back to the Rockies organization.
Would the Seahawks permit him to go to minor league spring training in Arizona? That would be a fun media event and distraction. Perhaps they would let him, were it not for all of the offseason team activity stuff the NFL has players doing these days. It's mostly volunteer, except it isn't, really. And being a quarterback, Wilson might be missed.
Here's a complete list of the Rule 5 results. Although there have been several famous and great ballplayers taken in the Rule 5 through the years, it's almost impossible to say if any of these players will ever have an impact at the major league level.
We know Russell Wilson will. Just in a different major league.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Wilson needed to make the roster of a minor league team in the Rangers organization or risk being sent back to the Rockies.]
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