When Josh Byrnes confirmed that the trade of Anthony Bass to the Astros is indeed Rule 5 Draft-related -- most likely the players to be named later will be each team's picks, with Houston holding the first selection -- it brought to mind 10 years ago when Dumpster-diving gunslinger Kevin Towers made the first Rule 5 trade in team history. In a deal that was set up beforehand, San Diego selected speedy outfielder Rich Thompson from the Pirates on behalf of the Royals. In turn, Kansas City selected pitcher Jason Szuminski from the Cubs with the tenth pick and packaged him with cash.
Jason Szuminski didn't stick around for long but he left a lasting impression. When he made his debut on April 11, 2004, he became the first alumnus of MIT to appear in the majors. He is also on the short list of players who served in the United States armed forces; he was in the Air Force Reserves during his time in baseball. He recorded a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings over seven relief appearances before he was sent back to the Cubs organization one month to the day after his first game. He gave up three homers -- to Bobby Estalalla, Juan Encarnacion, and Richie Sexson -- but does proudly recall that he got Barry Bonds out. He never made it back to the majors after those seven games but he wound up going to Stanford to get his MBA so I wouldn't worry about him too much.
Rich Thompson worked out as well for the Royals as Szuminski did for the Padres. He got into six games as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, grounding into a double play in his only plate appearance before being offered back to the Pirates. Thompson went back to AAA and just stayed there. He didn't just stay there the rest of that season, he stayed at that level for the next eight years. After stops at Nashville, Indianapolis, Tucson, Lehigh Valley, and Durham, Thompson finally returned to the majors with the Rays in May of 2012. He was used in 23 games by Joe Maddon, once again mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive substitute. He collected two hits in 22 at-bats and returned to Durham in 2012 and again in 2013, where he brought his minor league stolen base total to a ridiculous 486. As of November 5, he is currently a free agent.
One can only hope that the first pick in tomorrow's Rule 5 draft -- whether it's Mariners left-hander Brian Moran or some wildcard -- will be more Everth Cabrera than Rich Thompson or, more appropriately, more Kevin Cameron than Jason Szuminski.