Red Sox take a pitcher away from rival Yankees in Rule 5 draft

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 14: A Rawlings leather baseball glove and a hat sit on the bench in the dugout before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 14, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Red Sox won 2-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 14: A Rawlings leather baseball glove and a hat sit on the bench in the dugout before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 14, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Red Sox won 2-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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The Red Sox selected a Yankees pitching prospect in the Rule 5 draft

The Boston Red Sox added depth to their pitching staff while simultaneously taking away from their greatest rival by selecting right-handed pitcher Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees Triple-A roster in the Rule 5 draft.

Boston had the No. 4 overall pick in the draft and they did not make another selection when their turn came around again in Round 2. They were active in the minor league portion of the draft but those selections won’t be added to the 40-man roster.

MLB.com ranked Whitlock as the No. 10 prospect in the Yankees farm system in 2018 but his stock has fallen since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July of 2019. He was 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 starts with Double-A Trenton before he was shut down with the elbow injury.

Whitlock was excellent in his last full season of work in 2018, going 12-8 with a 1.86 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 in 120 1/3 innings spread across three minor league levels.

The right-hander utilizes a two-seam fastball in the low 90s with sink and he has developed a mid-90s four-seam fastball. He complements the fastballs with a breaking ball that has the power of a slider and depth of a curveball, as well as a changeup that he uses effectively against left-handed hitters.

The 24-year old has the upside to fill a spot in the middle of the rotation but the lengthy time off following the elbow injury might make him better suited for the bullpen next season. He’ll be fully recovered from the surgery but the Red Sox will still need to monitor his innings.

As a Rule 5 draft selection, Whitlock must spend the entire season on the 26-man active roster (or injured list). Otherwise, Boston must offer him back to the Yankees. Converting him into a reliever is the best way to be cautious with his workload while keep him on the active roster, although his track record in the rotation could prove useful for the occasional spot start.

The Red Sox are expecting to get Eduardo Rodriguez back to join Nathan Eovaldi in the rotation. Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta are also options to start after their impressive performances down the stretch last season but the sample size to too small to simply hand them both a rotation spot. Boston needs to add at least one starting pitcher to fill a spot until Chris Sale is ready to return from Tommy John surgery mid-season and they might need two in case one of their young pitchers fails to carry over the momentum they built this year.

It would be a massive disappointment if the Red Sox settled for a Rule 5 draft pick as their only addition to the rotation. Boston is expected to sign a mid-rotation arm in free agency or acquire one on the trade market to stabilize their staff with a more reliable option. That’s another reason to expect Whitlock will be pushed to the bullpen or a spot starter role.

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The Red Sox will have 39 players on their 40-man roster once Whitlock is added, leaving room to add another pitcher without a corresponding roster move. With holes in the outfield, bullpen and possibly second base, Boston will need to clear some roster space in order to fill those needs. Considering they used a roster spot on a Rule 5 draft pick who needs to remain on the active roster, the Red Sox presumably were already intending to make some cuts this offseason.