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Red Sox get set for Rule 5 roster deadline

By 5:00 this afternoon, the Red Sox need to set their 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 draft. Who will be protected?

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Although the Rule 5 draft won't take place until the Winter Meetings, which are still a few weeks away, Thursday marks the roster deadline. Teams across the league will have to move their eligible players to their 40-man rosters in order to protect them from being drafted -- if they move an eligible player there after Thursday, they're still able to be selected in the Rule 5. As a quick reminder of the rules, the eligible players are as follows: Players who were drafted at age 19 or older have four professional seasons before being eligible, while those drafted at 18 or under have five seasons.

Throughout the season, various writers here have alluded to a possible roster crunch at this time of the year, as the team had more quality players eligible to be selected than usual. As it stands now, Boston has four open spots on their 40-man after claiming Juan Francisco yesterday. There are more than four players who will get consideration for protection, but chances are the following four players will be the only ones who make the cut.

Blake Swihart

Though he was drafted out of high school, Boston's top prospect was selected in the first-year player draft at the age of 19 in 2011, and thus is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. Given his immense talent, Swihart is a lock to be protected at some point this afternoon. Despite having just 71 AAA plate appearances under his belt, any team would jump at the opportunity to play him on their bench for a season for his rights. Though it is highly unlikely that he will make the Red sox's roster out of spring training, there is a good chance that he will be making his major-league debut at some point in 2015.

Eduardo Rodriguez

After coming over from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade, Rodriguez took his game to another level in his six starts with Portland. He tossed 37-1/3 innings over six starts and put up a ridiculous 0.96 ERA with a 39/8 K/BB ratio. With this performance under his belt, it could very easily be argued that he has jumped up to become the team's best pitching prospect. At just 21-years-old with no AAA experience, it may seem strange that a team would draft him to spend an entire season on their active roster. However, his potential would be too much for opponents to pass up, and they would easily be able to get by with him in their bullpen for the 2015 season. Like with Swihart, it's unlikely Rodriguez will make the roster out of spring training, but if he throws like he did after the trade, we'll see him in Boston at some point in 2015.

Travis Shaw

Although Shaw does not possess the same ceiling as Swihart and Rodriguez, he is still a very solid player who can do a lot of things well. Throughout his minor-league career, the 24-year-old first baseman has shown the ability to take a walk while limiting his strikeouts and hitting for power. He split 2014 between Portland and Pawtucket, and bounced back after a relatively weak 2013. If he continues to hit in AAA next season, there's a chance he will make the active roster before September with a couple of injuries.

Sean Coyle

Likely the last player to be protected in the organization, Coyle spent the entirety of 2014 in Portland and put together an impressive stat line. While playing mostly second base with some third base sprinkled in, the 22-year-old hit an impressive .295/.371/.512 at AA. His positional versatility in the infield as well as his clear ability to hit could be enough for a team to select him despite his relative lack of professional experience.

Assuming that these four are added, that would fill Boston's 40-man, so if anyone else were to be protected, the team would have to make a trade or players would be designated for assignment. Players like Henry Ramos, Noe Ramirez and Aaron Kurcz could be considered, but it appears unlikely they will be added. Each of them has shown potential in their stints in the minors, but even if they are selected, they probably wouldn't last an entire season on a major-league roster.

The other concern here would be that filling up the 40-man roster means that other moves need to be made to make room for free agent additions. However, that's not a concern today, as more changes can be made down the line. There are candidates to be designated for assignment such as Ryan Lavarnway, Drake Britton or Jemile Weeks. Francisco may also not be long for the roster. In addition to that, trades will certainly be happening at some point this winter, opening up more spots.

Although there was some concern over the season about how the Red Sox would be able to protect everyone who needed protection from the Rule 5 draft, it ended up coming down to a relatively easy process. There are four open spots on the roster, and four players who will definitely need to be protected. Though other players may have a case for protection, don't expect more roster spots to be opened today, with just Swihart, Rodriguez, Shaw and Coyle being protected.