The Red Sox are rolling the dice with these latest roster decisions

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WEEI Sports Radio

Nobody said Friday's round of roster decisions was going to be easy for the Red Sox. And it wasn't.

Like all Major League Baseball teams, the Sox were forced to define which players they were going to be adding to the 40-man roster, with eligible prospects left off now available to all clubs in the Rule 5 Draft.

We know how that works. Just ask the Yankees or Garrett Whitlock.

Heading into the deadline, the Red Sox had seven spots open on their 40-man roster, with the understanding that some of that space would ultimately be needed for offseason acquisitions. When it was all said and done, the Sox filled just four of them.

Pitchers Josh Winckowski, Brayan Bello, and Kutter Crawford, along with infielder Jeter Downs, are all now members of the Red Sox' 40-man roster.

For one, these are the guys who the team will always prioritize when either making a club, or being called up during the course of a season. It's a big deal.

Now, in just a couple of weeks (unless labor strife interferes) we will find out if the Red Sox' calculated gamble to expose some promising players to the Rule 5 Draft pays off.

Here are the names to keep an eye on:

Durbin Feltman: The 24-year-old reliever would seem to fit the profile of a player a team might prioritize in the Rule 5 Draft, having come off a promising season (2.96 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A), while having shown major-league stuff all the way back to his time as a closer at TCU.

Gilberto Jimenez: The Red Sox are flat-out banking on teams viewing the outfielder as being too young and inexperienced to keep on a big-league roster. The speedy 21-year-old held his own at Single-A Salem in 2021, hitting .306 with 13 stolen bases (albeit in 21 attempts).

Thaddeus Ward: This might be the riskiest decision of the bunch considering a team can pluck Ward and put him on its 60-day injured list due to the Tommy John surgery the pitcher underwent in June. They would only have to keep the 24-year-old on the 40-man roster for 90 days. Conversely, the Red Sox would be eating up a roster spot for a pitcher who has just two games in Double-A and isn't likely to see action in 2022. We are, however, talking about the Red Sox' Minor-League Pitcher of the Year just two seasons ago.

Here is the Red Sox' press release on the players they added to the 40-man roster:

Bello , 22, is ranked by Baseball America as the Red Sox’ No. 5 prospect. The right-hander split the 2021 season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland, making 21 starts and going 7-3 with a 3.87 ERA (41 ER/95.1 IP), 132 strikeouts, and 31 walks. Following the season, the Red Sox named Bello the organization’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. Acquired as an international free agent in July 2017, the Dominican Republic native has a 3.98 ERA (124 ER/280.1 IP) in 60 career minor league appearances (59 starts).

Crawford , 25, is ranked by as the Red Sox’ No. 23 prospect. The right-hander made 20 appearances (19 starts) between Portland and Triple-A Worcester in 2021, going 6-6 with a 4.28 ERA (45 ER/94.2 IP) and 131 strikeouts. The Florida native also made his major league debut last season, starting against Cleveland on September 5. He has made four starts in the Dominican Winter League this year, allowing one earned run in 18.1 innings (0.49 ERA). Selected by Boston in the 16th round of the 2017 June Draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Crawford is 18-21 with a 3.63 ERA (132 ER/327.2 IP) and 390 strikeouts in 67 minor league games (66 starts).

Downs , 23, is ranked as one of the Red Sox’ top 10 prospects by both Baseball America (No. 6) and (No. 5). The right-handed hitter spent the 2021 season with Worcester, making 78 starts at shortstop and 21 at second base while batting .190 (68-for-357) with 14 home runs and 18 stolen bases. In 16 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, he went 13-for-57 (.228) with five home runs and an .880 OPS. Selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 2017 June Draft (No. 32 overall), Downs was acquired by the Red Sox from the Los Angeles Dodgers on February 10, 2020.

Winckowski , 23, is ranked by Baseball America as the Red Sox’ No. 9 prospect. He split the 2021 season between Portland (21 games, 20 starts) and Worcester (two starts), going 9-4 with a 3.94 ERA (49 ER/112.0 IP), 101 strikeouts, and 33 walks. Following the season, the right-hander made six appearances for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 15 th round of the 2016 June Draft, Winckowski spent his first five seasons in Toronto’s minor league system before being traded to the Mets on January 27, 2021, then to the Red Sox on February 10.

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