SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — While the GM Meetings typically serve to crystallize roster questions, the Red Sox’ to-do list extends beyond players. With the dismissal of pitching coach Dave Bush and third base coach Carlos Febles after the season, the Sox need to round out their staff.
They are particularly eager to add a pitching coach.
“Offseason days are precious, just given how productive they can be in terms of development for our players,” said chief baseball officer Craig Breslow. “Every day that our pitching staff doesn’t have a pitching coach, in my mind is a bit of a lost opportunity.”
Breslow said the Sox put together a sizable list and have started requesting permission to interview candidates.
“My expectation is we can whittle that [list] down pretty quickly,” he said.
Former Red Sox pitcher Andrew Bailey, who has spent the last four years as the Giants’ pitching coach, represents an obvious candidate. The 39-year-old spent five years as a teammate of Breslow — three in Oakland (2009-11) and two in Boston (2012-13). During that time, they both lived in Connecticut and worked out together in the offseason. Bailey serves on the board as the director of development of the Strike 3 Foundation, the charity Breslow created to support research of pediatric cancer.
Bailey is still under contract with the Giants through Dec. 31. However, according to a major league source, coaches on expiring contracts unfailingly get permission after Nov. 1 to discuss vacancies with other teams, meaning that Bailey, as a practical matter, is a free agent.
Does Breslow expect his net to include a former neighbor in Connecticut?
“To be determined,” he said with a grin.
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins told reporters that he hired Febles as his team’s third base coach.
Pitching a priority
Breslow reiterated the Sox’ interest in improving their starting pitching after a season in which they ranked 22nd in rotation ERA (4.68) and 27th in rotation innings (4.8 per outing). But he declined to identify a target number of pitchers.
“We need to be open-minded,” said Breslow. “Starting pitching is certainly a priority for us, but to kind of try and forecast exactly a number or anything kind of more specific than that probably doesn’t make sense.”
In a free agent class deep in front-end starters but light on premium position players, the demand for starting pitching is expected to be significant, and costly.
“In my opinion, with [Shohei] Ohtani’s [arm] injury [which will keep him off the mound in 2024] and him not being in the pitching market, and the incredible demand for starting pitching by so many teams, especially with playoff ambitions, there is so much demand for starting pitching,” said agent Joel Wolfe, who represents soon-to-be-posted Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. “There are many fine starting pitchers out there. I think everybody’s going to do well. There’s great pitchers out there and every team needs starting pitching and starting pitching depth.”
Free agent starters Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and Blake Snell received one-year, $20.325 million qualifying offers from their 2023 teams, meaning the Red Sox would have to sacrifice a second-round pick to sign any of the three. Breslow said the qualifying offer would be a factor in the Sox’ decisions but would not rule out signing such a player.
Wait and see on GM
Breslow said he wasn’t in a rush to hire a GM, partly a reflection of the senior leadership team already in place — a group that includes executive vice president of baseball operations Brian O’Halloran and assistant GMs Eddie Romero Jr., Raquel Ferreira, and Michael Groopman. While Breslow said the hire for the No. 2 position in baseball operations could be internal or external, he made clear an interest in bringing more people with different ideas into the front office. “One thing that I saw in Chicago [with the Cubs] is that there is a lot of value in bringing in fresh perspectives and getting new ideas and infusing those into current systems,” said Breslow. “But I think it would be premature to think about that right now.” . . . Breslow suggested a preference to use the DH as a flexible means of getting lineup regulars off their feet rather than as a full-time spot for a defensive liability . . . Breslow described the Sox as “very comfortable” with Connor Wong as the primary catcher but didn’t rule out additions to the catching corps.