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Tomase: Noah Song is Dave Dombrowski's chance to stick it to Red Sox

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Dave Dombrowski

The Red Sox hit a Rule 5 home run with Garrett Whitlock. They may strike out looking on Noah Song.

The news was easy to miss earlier this week, but the Navy finally released Song from military duty, allowing him to restart his baseball career for the first time since 2019.

The Red Sox spent three years awaiting Song's return, but the Navy denied multiple waiver requests. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made the calculated risk not to place him on the 40-man roster this winter, gambling that no organization would take him in the Rule 5 draft and commit to placing him on the big league roster, but Phillies president Dave Dombrowski had other ideas. He snagged Song in the first round and reunited with a player he had selected in the 2019 draft, his final as Boston's president of baseball operations.

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Song was widely considered a first-round talent, but he slipped to the fourth round over concerns about his military obligations. In a brief exposure to pro ball that year, Song exhibited electric stuff, touching 99 mph with his fastball, posting a 1.06 ERA in seven starts at short-season Lowell, and then emerging as the best pitcher on Team USA in the Premier12 tournament with five scoreless relief outings.

As smart as the Red Sox looked for swiping Whitlock from the Yankees following Tommy John surgery, they could equally regret the decision not to place Song on the 40-man roster over some lesser prospects this winter. That outcome is no longer in their hands.


Dombrowski no doubt relishes the opportunity to outmaneuver the organization that fired him less than a year after winning the World Series, and you have to admire the roll of the dice on such a premium talent.

That said, there's no question this gambit could simply end with Song returned to the Red Sox. As great as the right-hander was at the Naval Academy, where he was a first-team All-American and Golden Spikes finalist, he's attempting something unprecedented.

He hasn't pitched competitively in three years, he has yet to throw an inning even at Single-A, and if the Phillies want to keep him, he'll need to spend the entire season on their big-league roster or clear outright waivers before being offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

Aggression is a hallmark of Dombrowski's approach, however, and the Phillies boast a deep enough roster, theoretically, to carry Song as a low-leverage arm while he learns on the job. If the Phils can manage him through the season, they will have successfully pilfered a player with the potential to be one of the top pitching prospects in the game.

There is some precedent for this in another sport. The Cowboys drafted Navy quarterback Roger Staubach 129th overall in the 1964 NFL draft and then waited as he completed his military obligation, which included a tour of duty in Vietnam.

He debuted at age 27 in 1969 and then spent 11 seasons in Dallas, where he won a pair of Super Bowls, made the league's all-1970s team, and earned enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

There's no telling where Song's career goes from here, but if he succeeds in Philadelphia, it will be a black eye for a Red Sox organization so focused on building through homegrown talent. All Bloom and Co. can do now is hope he doesn't become the one they let slip away.