Red Sox: Expect 40-man roster moves in anticipation of Rule 5 draft
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox should be expected to add to their 40-man roster today prior to the deadline for protecting prospects from the Rule 5 draft.
The Boston Red Sox will have until 8 p.m. on Wednesday to add any Rule 5 draft-eligible prospects to their 40-man roster to prevent them from being poached by other teams during the winter meetings next month.
The Rule 5 draft is an annual event where teams with open spots on their 40-man roster can select eligible players from other organizations. Teams that select a player must pay the club they are taking from $50,000 and they must keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entirety of the upcoming season, or else they’ll be forced to offer the player back to their original team.
Only players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.
Players on a team’s 40-man roster are ineligible to be drafted. Even if a team has no intention of calling that player up to the big leagues in 2020, now would be the time to add them to their roster to protect them from the draft.
The Red Sox have over 50 eligible players, according to SoxProspects.com. The majority of these players either aren’t good enough or aren’t close enough to being major-league ready for there to be any risk that another team would steal them away in the draft but there are at least a few prospects the Red Sox will want to protect.
Boston currently has six open spots on their 40-man roster, leaving plenty of room to add those they want to protect. They don’t necessarily need to leave all of them on the 40-man roster heading into next season, as they’ll certainly want to leave spots available for free agency or trades, but temporarily adding them now ensures they won’t get scooped up in the Rule 5 draft.
Infielder Bobby Dalbec and shortstop C.J. Chatham are obvious candidates to be added to the roster today. Dalbec is the No. 2 prospect in the Red Sox system, according to MLB.com. The power-hitting corner infielder could be counted on to fill the vacancy at first base this season. There’s no clear role available for Chatham at the moment but the Red Sox will certainly want to protect their No. 9 prospect.
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Outfielder Marcus Wilson (No. 18) and right-handed pitcher Eduard Bazardo (No. 26) will probably be protected. Wilson was acquired last year in the Blake Swihart trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and has impressed since joining the organization, joining Chatham on the Arizona Fall League All-Star team. Bazardo thrived when he was moved to the bullpen this year where his fastball velocity ticked up to the mid-’90s. He could race to the big leagues quickly in his new reliever role. Both players were included in the bottom-third of BoSox Injection’s top 30 prospect rankings.
Lefty pitchers Kyle Hart (No. 28) and Yoan Aybar (No. 30) are the other two eligible players in the Red Sox top-30 list on MLB.com. Neither would appear to be in danger of being poached in the Rule 5 draft but it wouldn’t hurt to protect them if the Red Sox have the open roster spots. First basemen Josh Ockimey and Pedro Castellanos aren’t on MLB.com’s top-30 list but did make the cut in our rankings.
The Red Sox could open more roster spots if they want to retain more than six of these options or any of the other eligible players. Non-tendering Sandy Leon to save the $2.8 million he’s projected to earn next season would open a roster spot.
We could also see Chaim Bloom make his first trade at the helm of the Red Sox front office. Teams with more prospects to protect than they have open roster spots might be willing to trade players rather than risk losing them in the draft. That’s how Boston acquired Colten Brewer from the San Diego Padres last year. The Red Sox may not rush to fill all six of their open roster spots with this in mind.
We’re almost certain to see some roster moves by the end of the day though. Which players the Red Sox choose to protect will give us some insight into how they value their prospects under the new front-office regime.