Enmanuel Valdez is eligible to become a minor-league free agent this offseason. The Red Sox, therefore, have until five days following the conclusion of the World Series to add the versatile 23-year-old to their 40-man roster in order to prevent him from hitting the open market.
Boston acquired Valdez and fellow prospect Wilyer Abreu from the Astros in the August trade that sent veteran catcher Christian Vazquez to Houston. Both players can become eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in the coming weeks.
As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox could elect to re-sign Valdez to a minor-league contract. But that would still leave him (and Abreu) exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if they were not added to the 40-man prior to the November deadline.
In 2016, the Red Sox saw Josh Rutledge leave for the Rockies via minor-league free agency. They then re-acquired Rutledge by selecting him from Colorado in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The following year, they added Bryce Brentz to the 40-man roster after the 2017 World Series in order to block him from reaching minor-league free agency. These are just a few past examples provided by Smith.
Valdez, who turns 24 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The native Dominican originally signed with Houston for $450,000 as an international free agent coming out San Juan de la Maguna in July 2015.
At the time the three-player trade between the Red Sox and Astros was made this summer, Valdez was batting .327/.410/.606 with 26 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 77 RBIs, 66 runs scored, five stolen bases, 45 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 82 games (378 plate appearances) between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land.
Upon switching organizations for the first time in his career, the left-handed hitter proceeded to slash .237/.309/.422 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers, 30 runs driven in, 26 runs scored, three stolen bases, 19 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 44 games (195 plate appearances) for Triple-A Worcester.
Though his production dropped off with the WooSox, Valdez still posted a 131 wRC+ on the 2022 season as a whole and was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year as a result.
Defensively, Valdez saw the majority of his playing time in Worcester come in left field. The 5-foot-9, 191-pounder logged 330 innings at the keystone and 24 innings at third. He also made three starts in left field and has limited experience in right field as well.
Given that he is only one promotion away from the big-leagues, it seems unlikely that the Red Sox would risk losing Valdez this winter and will instead add him to their 40-man roster sooner rather than later. It is also worth mentioning that, after outrighting Tyler Danish on Monday, Boston currently has 39 players on its 40-man roster. Perhaps that spot will go to Valdez.
In the meantime, Valdez has been playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Coming into play on Tuesday, he has gone 6-for-28 (.214) with one double, two RBIs, three runs scored, one walk, and six strikeouts in nine games with the Toros del Este.
(Picture of Enmanuel Valdez: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)