Former Red Sox pitching prospect Noah Song is about to make his return to professional baseball with a new organization.
Song, who was taken by the Phillies in December’s Rule 5 Draft, has been transferred from active Naval duty to selective reserves and will report to Philadelphia’s spring training camp in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, according to Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Song’s situation is quite complex. The 25-year-old right-hander was originally selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the United States Naval Academy. He was considered to be a first-round talent after being named a Golden Spikes finalist as a senior, but his military commitment created some question marks.
Still, the Red Sox took somewhat of a chance on Song by signing him for $100,000. The California native made his pro debut with short-season Lowell and forged a miniscule 1.06 ERA in seven starts (17 innings) with the Spinners. He then made five scoreless relief appearances for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament that fall.
That was the last time Song pitched competitively. He reported to flight school in 2020 and completed his flight training last May. Song then applied to the Secretary of the Navy for a waiver that would allow him to continue his baseball career, but it was not granted by the time the Red Sox lost him to the Phillies on the final day of the Winter Meetings in mid-December.
If the Phillies intend on keeping Song, he will have to stick on their active 26-man roster (or injured list if he is hurt) for the entirety of the 2023 season. If those conditions cannot be met, Philadelphia could trade Song away, but those conditions would apply to his new team. Regardless, Song must remain in the majors for the entire season or would otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000. At that point, Boston would not have to commit an active or 40-man roster spot to Song.
Song, who turns 26 in May, was once considered to be one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. With that being said, it could be tough for the righty to stick on Philadelphia’s (or another club’s, if he is traded or waived) for the whole season considering that it has been nearly four years since he last pitched in a real game.
If Song is able to make an impact at the big-league level (whether it be in Philadelphia or elsewhere), then that would mean Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom let a talented young pitcher go for a mere $100,000 (the fee a team pays to claim a Rule 5 pick). If Song is not yet ready for the majors, then the Red Sox would be able to retain his services with his military commitment already behind him.
The fact that former Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who drafted Song in 2019, was the one who plucked the hurler from the organization makes this all the more interesting. As noted by Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe, Dombrowski and Phillies general manager Sam Fuld both had smiles on their faces at the time the selection was made.
“We made sure to double-check that he was available to be drafted, which he was,” Dombrowski said of Song back in December. “I knew him at the time (of the 2019 draft). We loved him. We thought he was a No. 1 Draft choice; we thought he might be the best starting pitcher in the country. We took a gamble at that point because we thought maybe he wouldn’t have to serve, but he ended up having to do that.
“Being available like this, we really had nothing to lose,” he added. “We like his talent a lot. We get to put him on the military list right off the bat, so he’s not on our 40-man roster. We figured we’d take a chance and just see what ends up happening.”
As Dombrowski alluded to then, the Phillies immediately placed Song on the military service list so that he would not count against their 40-man roster. According to Baseball America, the Red Sox could have added Song to their 40-man roster then placed him on the military service list, which would have made him ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft. By doing that, though, they would have been required to immediately add Song to the 40-man roster once he was eligible to pitch again.
Bloom, for his part, explained why the Red Sox elected to not protect Song when speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) at the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft.
“Anytime you leave somebody unprotected, there’s always a chance they get picked,” Bloom said. “He’s a high-profile guy for a reason. Obviously, such a unique situation. You don’t ever want to lose anybody. Given his situation, we felt that when he returns from his commitment, being on the 40-man roster would not be an ideal situation to have. That’s a risk we were willing to take.”
(Picture of Noah Song: Gene Wang/Getty Images)