ATLANTA -- The Braves added center fielder Mallex Smith and right-handed pitcher John Gant to their 40-man roster on Thursday. By doing so, they ensured that neither will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10.
Players who need to be protected include those who signed at 18 years old and have played five pro seasons or those who signed at age 19 or older and have played at least four seasons. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
Smith has made a strong impression since being acquired in the deal that sent Justin Upton to the Padres nearly a year ago. Smith batted .306, produced a .373 on-base percentage and recorded 57 stolen bases over 126 combined games with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year.
By early June, the Braves already indicated Smith would be a better long-term fit in the leadoff spot than Jose Peraza, who has since been traded to the Dodgers.
Though Smith will likely begin the 2016 season with Gwinnett, there is a strong chance he could become Atlanta's starting center fielder by the All-Star break.
Gant produced a 1.99 ERA in seven starts for Mississippi after the Braves acquired him from the Mets in July. The 23-year-old right-hander recorded 43 strikeouts and issued 14 walks in 40 2/3 innings.
The Braves will not provide Johan Camargo protection by adding him to the 40-man roster. But this is not necessarily much of a risk. It seems doubtful that teams would be willing to take a gamble on the light-hitting 21-year-old infielder who has not played above the Class A Advanced level.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.