The Red Sox were never going to be able to protect all 54 of their eligible minor-leaguers from next month’s Rule 5 Draft since they only had seven open spots on their 40-man roster to work with.
However, when the time came for the Sox to add those prospects they deemed worthy of protecting this past Friday, the club elected to fill just four of the seven vacancies they had on the 40-man.
While right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added, 50 other Red Sox minor-leaguers were not and effectively became eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft as a result.
Of those 50 who missed the cut, some notable prospects stick out, such as Kole Cottam, Durbin Feltman, Franklin German, Gilberto Jimenez, A.J. Politi, Ceddanne Rafaela, Victor Santos, Chase Shugart, and Thaddeus Ward, among others.
Within this group, Jimenez and Ward are regarded by SoxProspects.com as two of the top 20 prospects in Boston’s farm system and could be of interest to other clubs come December.
With that being said, though, Jimenez — a 21-year-old outfielder — has yet to advance past the Low-A level in the minors, while Ward — a 24-year-old right-hander — is only five-plus months removed from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch in 2022.
As FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen recently wrote, Jimenez would “be a bold Rule 5 choice for a rebuilding club, who’d be putting his long-term development at risk by rostering him.”
Ward, on the other hand, “would also be an interesting Rule 5 choice” since his new team could stash him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2020 season while he rehabs in order to clear a 40-man roster spot of their own.
On Monday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained to reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) just how difficult it was to leave a number of talented players off their 40-man roster going into the winter.
“We had a few tough calls, and I think some of that is a credit to the depth we built up in the system,” Bloom said. “Any time you add someone or leave someone off, in some sense it’s a calculated gamble. Over time, you learn sometimes the best way to lose a player is to add somebody that you shouldn’t. It might lead to you being in a crunch down the road, experiencing that pain of losing a player in another way, whether it’s that [unprotected] player or someone else.
“Knowing there are other things we want to accomplish this off-season with our 40-man roster and players we’d like to bring in both during the off-season and as we get into next year, wanting to have as much space as possible, that’s something you have to factor into the decisions you make,” added Bloom. “So there were a few that were not easy, but ultimately, this is how we felt most comfortable.”
Put another way, by keeping three spots on their 40-man roster open, the Red Sox at present would not have to make a corresponding move if they were to sign a free-agent to a major-league contract.
Along those same lines, Bloom and Co. are essentially daring other teams to take any of the prospects Boston left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and attempt to keep them on their big-league roster throughout the 2022 season.
As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall explains, if the Red Sox added an eligible prospect like Jimenez to their 40-man roster and wanted to remove him from it in the future, another club could then just claim him off waivers, option him to the minors, and keep him there.
(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)