Red Sox roster cut candidates ahead of Rule 5 Draft deadline

The Red Sox are expected to make some cuts to their 40-man roster.

The Boston Red Sox roster isn’t quite full with only 36 players currently residing on the 40-man roster but we should still expect additional cuts to be made by Friday’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.

Once a player reaches four or five seasons of minor league service, depending on age and when they signed, they must be added to the 40-man roster or else they will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft.

The Red Sox are expected to add at least six prospects to their 40-man roster by tomorrow – Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold, Connor Wong, Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario. All six rank within the top-25 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, according to MLB.com.

With only four roster spots available, Boston needs to trim at least two in order to make room. That’s assuming that they only plan to protect these six. Eduard Bazardo, Josh Ockimey, Bobby Poyner and Mike Shawaryn are also potential options if the Red Sox can clear enough room.

Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must spend the entire season on the 26-man active roster (or injured list) or else they must be offered back to their former team. Boston could roll the dice that their prospects who aren’t major league ready won’t be selected. However, many teams are strapped for cash following the pandemic-shortened season and the Rule 5 Draft offers a cheap path to filling out a roster. The risk of losing prospects might be higher than it would be in most years.

Let’s assume that the Red Sox need to free up at least two roster spots by tomorrow. Who could be on the chopping block?

Lefty reliever Yoan Aybar converted from the outfield to the bullpen a few years ago with mixed results. He has some raw potential but he’s never played above A-ball and could take years to develop since he got a late start learning how to pitch. He wouldn’t be on the 40-man roster if he weren’t Rule 5 Draft eligible and most players in that position are closer to the big leagues.

Matt Hall surrendered a staggering 18 earned runs in only 8 2/3 innings for an 18.69 ERA in four appearances this year. It’s a small sample but his previous experience with the Detroit Tigers (9.48 ERA) leaves much to be desired. He’s an easy cut candidate.

Robert Stock and Jeffrey Springs are two more relievers who contributed to the Red Sox having one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Neither has an impressive track record and they aren’t coveted prospects with long-term upside.

Deivy Grullon provided some depth at a thin catcher position but only appeared in one game for the Red Sox this year. With Wong being added to the 40-man roster, Grullon might be expendable.

Colten Brewer and Marcus Walden were terrible this year but they were at least serviceable bullpen options in previous seasons. Chris Mazza and Kyle Hart provide cheap rotation depth and have solid minor league track records that suggest they are better than what we’ve seen from them in Boston. They might not stick around until Opening Day if the Red Sox upgrade their rotation and bullpen through free agency but they should be safe for now.

Roster turnover should be expected when a team with Boston’s resources finishes with the fourth-worst record in baseball. 10 players who finished the 2020 season on the 40-man roster are already gone via free agency, waiver claims or being outrighted by the team. More will follow them out the door as the Red Sox clear room to sign free-agents or make trades.

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For now, the focus is on clearing enough space to make room for the prospects who need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft by tomorrow’s deadline. We could see several players jettisoned over the next two days and it’s clear that the Red Sox have their fair share of expendable candidates.