The MLB Rule 5 Draft isn’t a “household” event like Free Agency is. Especially since it’s more of a developemntal/long-term solution, whereas Free Agency is more of an immediate/short-term solution for teams. Even with that being the usual turnaround for Rule 5 picks. There have been a few instances where the turnaround/solution has come in more of a Free Agency timeline (short-term), for teams. Such as 4x Gold Glover OF Shane Victorino for the Phillies (2005 pick),3x All-Star 2B Dan Uggla for the Marlins (2005 pick), and 2x Cy Young winner LHP Johan Santana for the Twins (1999 pick/traded for).
For the Red Sox, their most recent highlight of the Rule 5 was snagging RHP Garrett Whitlock in the 2020 draft. From the Yankees, no less. Whitlock burst onto the scene in 2021, posting a 1.96 ERA, 81 SO, and a 1.10 WHIP in 73.1 IP. Which led to the 26 year-old landing a four-year contract extension, at the beginning of this past season. After this past week’s Rule 5, the Red Sox could be on the other end of that such situation. After losing RHP Thaddeus Ward to the Nationals (#1 overall), they could be in the Yankees shoes.
A Look At Thad Ward
Ward was ranked by The Athletic’s Keith Law as the no. 14 Red Sox prospect before the 2022 season. In 2019, the Fort Myers, FL native was the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of The Year. After coming off of Tommy John Surgery in 2021, he only pitched 51 1/3 innings this past season in the minors (Nothing above High A).
While the innings were low, his strikeout rate was fairly high (31 percent). Which is one of the things that intrigued Nationals GM Mike Rizzo the most about Ward. That and seeing the Central Florida Alum’s slider in the Arizona Fall League, earlier this year. A slider that Rizzo said has “the makings of a swing-and-miss pitch.” Rizzo also believes that Ward has a very good chance to be in a Nats uniform all year.
Why The Sox Let Ward Walk
After reading that Ward was the Red Sox #14 prospect, and 2019 Minor League pitcher of the year. You may be thinking the same as I did, “why would they let him walk?”. That’s a good question. It’s a mix of a couple factors.
Foremost, the guys at the “bottom” of the team’s 40-man have big-league experience. The likes of RHP Connor Seabold, LHP Darwinzon Hernandez and SS Jeter Downs. So the thought was probably to let a guy like Ward, who’s over the age-25 “hump” and hasn’t seen the mound above Double-A. Rather than protect him and push out one of the MLB experienced guys.
Along with the fact, that the team still needs to figure out how to make room for the recent signings of RHP Kenley Jansen and International Star OF Masahato Yoshida. Not to mention any future signings that will (hopefully) come this off-season. It makes sense that they would rather mull over which of the big league guys to push on out to make room for immediate MLB help. Like Jansen and Yoshida.
As mentioned earlier, Ward has (at least according to Mike Rizzo) the stuff to stay in the big leagues and in a Nats uniform, for the whole season. If he were to be the Nationals version of Garrett Whitlock, that’s exactly one of the things that he would need to do.
Because if he doesn’t, then there’s a solid chance he could be sent back the Red Sox. With Rule 5 guidelines, if Ward doesn’t stay on the 26-man roster for Washington all season, he gets offered back to the Red Sox. There is almost no doubt in my mind that Chaim Bloom and the Sox would welcome him back. Unless Ward shows that he definitely doesn’t have what it takes in some way, shape, or form. That would be the only way the Sox wouldn’t take him back in that instance.
But if Ward were to stay in Washington all season, then it wouldn’t take too much more than being good/above average consistently to essentially be the “reverse” version of Garrett Whitlock for the Red Sox.
Read More: Rule 5 Draft guidelines.