In a move that should surprise precisely zero people, the Cincinnati Reds added catcher Tyler Stephenson and pitcher Tony Santillan to their 40-man roster on Wednesday, officially protecting them from being draftable in next month’s Rule 5 Draft at baseball’s Winter Meetings. The deadline to add players to the roster was today at 8 PM ET, and the Reds weren’t about to leave two of their prized prospects to the bidding of the other 29 MLB clubs, as they revealed on Twitter earlier.
As you can see from the tweet, pitchers Ryan Hendrix and Tejay Antone were also added to the roster.
Stephenson and Santillan - selected in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the 2015 MLB Draft, respectively - aren’t just two of the Reds most prized prospects, they’re also two of the more MLB-ready ones in the system, and that’s precisely what made them obvious adds at this juncture. The way the Rule 5 selection system works, for those unaware, allows teams to select players who have spent the requisite amount of time in other teams’ minor league systems without cracking the roster and keep them for their own, provided that they keep them on their active roster after being selected. In other words, it’s actually more likely to see a moderately regarded MLB-ready prospect picked than a highly regarded one who’s still years away from the bigs, since clubs would be forced to sacrifice an active roster spot all season just to keep that guy in their own system.
(Not to mention the obvious part of that statement: usually, the highly regarded players who are still years away haven’t been in the original club’s system long enough to be exposed to the Rule 5 in the first place.)
The Reds had 35 players on their 40-man roster prior to these additions, meaning the roster now sits at 39, leaving them with one open spot with which they could potentially add a player by making a Rule 5 selection themselves. Or, y’know, they could sign Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon or Didi Gregorius to fill that spot, too.
Although it’s certainly not as important at this juncture, there are a few interesting tidbits about the players who the Reds opted against adding to the roster at this juncture and who thereby will be unprotected come December. TJ Friedl stands out in particular, though perhaps the ankle injury that ended his 2019 campaign at AA Chattanooga is still ugly enough that the Reds feel confident that no other team will take a flier on him. Of similar note is Alfredo Rodriguez, the Cuban shortstop in whom the Reds invested millions of bones in several years ago. He has certainly failed to hit hardly at all in his stint in the minors, though his glove has long been considered capable of covering short at the big league level already. The Reds are perilously thin at SS in their upper minors and at the majors at the moment - Freddy Galvis is on a 1-year deal, while Jose Peraza has been mentioned as a potential non-tender candidate - and Fred Rod’s exposure makes it pretty clear that either a) the Reds know nobody is taking him, or b) the Reds aren’t concerned at all about their SS depth because they know they’re going to bring one in from outside the organization this winter.
We’ll have more on this as it all sinks in, but for now, welcome to the Reds roster Tejay, Ryan, Tyler, and Tony.