Craig Breslow had a hugely successful playing career.
A lefthanded reliever, Breslow played parts of 12 seasons in the majors and had a significant role in helping the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series, appearing in 61 games, then 10 more in the postseason.
He earned $15.5 million along the way and performed to a level that was significantly better than the league average.
Not bad for a 26th-round pick out of Yale.
Now, at 43, Breslow is the chief baseball officer of the Red Sox and competing in a different way.
The dynamic of having a former player run the team is an interesting one. Breslow is a self-described Ivy League-educated analytics nerd like so many of his counterparts. But he also pitched for first-place teams, last-place teams, and everything in between.
Breslow was traded twice, selected off waivers three times, released five times, and spent many a winter waiting to be signed as a free agent after more notable players came off the board.
That Breslow played as long as he did and persevered through low points attests to the ambition he’ll bring to the Sox.
Jerry Dipoto (Mariners), Chris Getz (White Sox), and Chris Young (Rangers) are the only other former major leaguers in charge of baseball operations.
Young, who put together the team that last month gave Texas its first championship, thinks the Red Sox made a smart choice. He believes playing experience has value in a leadership role.
“Having lived it in professional baseball for a number of years, just have a great appreciation and understanding for what players go through, how their minds work, what they need, [and] how to help them realize their dreams and be the best they can be,” Young said.
“Whether or not that’s an advantage, I can’t say. There’s a lot of things I don’t know about the job that I didn’t learn coming up through a front office. But I do understand the ins and outs of the dugout and the clubhouse and try to utilize that to the best of my ability to be a winning organization.”
In Young’s experience as an executive, players appreciate candor. He doesn’t try to be anybody’s pal or spend too much time in the clubhouse. That’s their space now, not his.
“It’s your ability to connect and be honest and authentic,” Young said.
Rangers players felt Young’s experience as a player played a role in winning the World Series.
“He had a feel for the team and the clubhouse,” Nate Eovaldi said. “We weren’t playing well going into the [trade] deadline and he still made some moves to make us better. That really helped, not just on the field. For me, I think he understood how we felt as a group.”
Rangers reliever Ian Kennedy stayed with the team throughout the postseason despite being out with a shoulder injury. The 38-year-old righthander played with Breslow in 2012 when both were members of the Diamondbacks.
“Craig’s one of the smartest players I ever played with,” he said. “He can combine analytics with a feel for the game like C.Y. does. They’re smart guys who get it because they’ve worn the uniform before. I think he’ll be great for the Red Sox. He’ll have the same desire to win he had when he played.”
Counsell’s new deal
good news for Cora?
Craig Counsell is one of the best managers in the game, averaging 88 wins over seven seasons with the budget-conscious Brewers.
But it was still a surprise he landed a five-year deal worth $40 million from the Cubs. That’s the best contract for a manager since Joe Torre was with the Yankees.
Torre won four World Series and six pennants in New York. Counsell won one playoff series over nine seasons and Milwaukee is 1-8 in postseason games since 2019.
Good for Counsell and agent Barry Meister for setting the market higher, which was long overdue for managers. Kevin Cash, Dave Roberts, Brian Snitker, and others must be envious.
Alex Cora, who is signed through next season, could be a beneficiary. If the Red Sox have a successful season, Cora could seek a hefty raise or follow Counsell’s example and see where free agency takes him.
A preemptive contract extension is unlikely. The last two seasons have been rough ones and the team should wait to see how well Cora works with Craig Breslow.
“Those conversations will take place between Alex and me when the time is right,” Breslow said. “He is preparing for the 2024 season. I’m preparing for the 2024 season. Beyond that I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to discuss that.”
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ The Sox have not had a Gold Glove winner since Mookie Betts in 2019. Their last infielder to earn one was Dustin Pedroia in 2014, unless you count Ian Kinsler, who played 35 games at second base in 2018 after being acquired from the Angels.
▪ Did Ben Cherington see Breslow becoming an executive when he was pitching for the Sox?
“I think we all envisioned that he would do something meaningful in the game after he stopped playing,” said the Pirates’ GM, who acquired Breslow in a 2012 trade while GM of the Red Sox.
“For a long time I didn’t know what that would be and I don’t think he knew what that would be. Just talked to him a lot in that year or two after he was done playing. Talked to him about being on the field still, in uniform [as a coach] and going down that path.
“But ultimately, he chose the baseball ops/front office/player development path and he’s done really well. I’m sure he’ll do well in Boston.”
Cherington agreed that Andrew Miller could be the next member of the 2013 Red Sox to try life in the front office.
▪ A number of veteran minor leaguers became free agents, among them Michael Gettys, Rio Gomez, and Ronaldo Hernandez.
Gettys, 28, is the former highly regarded outfield prospect who was a bust and became a pitcher in 2021 after signing with the Sox. He is 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 45 relief appearances since but missed last season because of back surgery.
The 29-year-old Gomes is a lefthanded reliever who made his way to Triple A after being a 36th-round pick in 2017. He’s now working as a starter in the Dominican Winter League. He is the son of the late Pedro Gomez.
Hernandez was heralded as a big steal for Chaim Bloom when he was acquired from the Rays in 2021. But the 25-year-old catcher never emerged as much of a prospect. Tampa Bay got Jeffrey Springs back in the deal and he had 4.7 WAR before undergoing Tommy John surgery last season.
▪ Matt Barnes is a free agent for the first time in his career after his $8 million contract option was declined by the Marlins.
At 33, the righthander has hit a career crossroads. He has not pitched well the last two seasons, posting a 4.72 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP thanks to 4.6 walks per nine innings. He’s coming off hip surgery in July but has resumed throwing.
Barnes had a strong run with the Sox from 2016-21 and shouldn’t lack for opportunities. But it could be a deal with a low guarantee and incentives based on appearances.
▪ Remember Casey Kelly? He was the two-way player from Florida the Sox took in the first round of the 2008 draft and traded to San Diego in 2010 as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal.
Kelly focused on pitching and was 2-11 with a 5.46 ERA with the Padres, Braves, and Giants from 2012-18. Now 34, Kelly is 68-38 with a 3.08 ERA in five seasons in Korea and this season pitched the LG Twins to the Korean Series.
▪ New Boston City Council member Enrique Pepén (District 5) is the son of Red Sox Spanish radio announcer Nilson “Junior” Pepén. He has called games full-time for the last five seasons.
a dream with Sox
Former Red Sox first baseman and outfielder Bob Guindon died in Florida last month at the age of 80.
A Brookline native, Guindon signed with the Sox in 1961 out of English High for what was briefly a major league record of $125,000 for an amateur player. It was a huge story at the time, a Boston schoolboy signing with the Sox.
“Fourteen major league clubs put in bids either by phone or in person,” wrote the Globe’s Will McDonough.
A tall lefthanded hitter, Guindon hit 76 home runs over his first four seasons in the minors and was called up late in the 1964 season. He made his debut on Sept. 19 at Fenway Park as a pinch runner.
His wife, Pattie, was in the hospital delivering their first child and listened to the game on the radio.
Over five games, Guindon was 1 for 8 with a double. He went to spring training with the major league team in ‘65 but was assigned to Triple A Toronto near the end of camp.
Guindon showed good power but never returned to the big leagues, He took up pitching in 1967 but that didn’t get him back, either.
Following a stint in the Cardinals system, Guindon left baseball after the 1970 season and started a successful business career that included working for State Street Bank, Wang Laboratories, and FranklinCovey.
He and Pattie were married for 60 years and had two sons along with a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After promising “big changes” with the Yankees, the only thing owner Hal Steinbrenner listed as a new endeavor when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday was having minor leaguers work on bunting at the suggestion of manager Aaron Boone. Steinbrenner also mentioned arriving at some decisions in conjunction with star right fielder Aaron Judge. Then a few hours later, Brian Cashman launched into an occasionally profane defense of his team at the GM Meetings. This is as unsettled as the Yankees have been in years . . . Could the Padres move Xander Bogaerts off shortstop? General manager A.J. Preller said that’s a conversation he has to have once the team selects a new manager. “Xander, I think overall defensively — from the eyes and the metric standpoint — he played a better-than-average to plus shortstop,” Preller said. “I think we’re blessed; we have multiple shortstops in the infield and guys who can move around and play pretty well. We’ll get the new manager’s take on what’s the best setup for us and make our decisions accordingly from there.” Bogaerts has played 53 games at third base, none since 2014. He has never played second base at any level . . . Shouldn’t Major League Baseball punish the Cubs for ignoring the Selig Rule and not considering any minority candidates before swooping in to hire Craig Counsell as manager after saying David Ross would retain his job? The Cubs did the same thing to Rick Renteria in 2014, undeservedly tossing him overboard when Joe Maddon became available . . . Guardians GM Mike Chernoff on the job description for special adviser Terry Francona: “We’ll figure that out over time. There are some things we’d like him to get into but we want to leave a lot of leeway for creativity.” The Guardians also hope Francona will be around the team for at least some of spring training . . . The Angels generally don’t do much right. But hiring Ron Washington as manager will add life to an organization in need of a boost. At 71, Washington was one of the hardest workers in baseball as Atlanta’s third base coach and infield instructor, all the while making playful wisecracks and smiling. It worked, too, as he made better players out of Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and many others. “Angels players are incredibly excited and Braves players are incredibly sad,” Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos said . . . Teoscar Hernández is going to get a much bigger contract than you expect for a career .261 hitter with a .316 on-base percentage. He has an .803 OPS the last three seasons with 83 homers and he crushes lefties. For teams such as the Red Sox, who need righthanded power, he’ll be high on the list . . . Scott Boras, ever the showman, did a long news conference at the GM Meetings that opened with two ideas he’s been promoting for a while: Moving the amateur draft back to June and putting the World Series at a neutral site to make it more like the Super Bowl. He’s right about the draft, which gets overlooked as part of the All-Star Game festivities. It’s also detrimental to amateur players to wait until mid-July to get picked with most high school and college seasons ending in May. But Boras has it wrong about the Series. Fans who support a team for 81 games a season deserve to have the biggest games of the season in their home park. Turning the Series into a corporate event like the Super Bowl would be ruinous . . . There is little chance of Joey Votto returning to the Reds after the team declined his $20 million option. But Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins acknowledged his team having an interest. In addition to being a Toronto native, Votto’s credibility and experience would be a good addition to the clubhouse. “Incredible reputation, really dynamic personality. Really bright,” Atkins said. “We have a good feel for what kind of player he is.” . . . Lefthander Jalen Beeks, the prospect the Red Sox traded for Nate Eovaldi in 2018, was outrighted off the 40-man roster by the Rays . . . Miguel Cabrera has retired, but the Tigers still owe him an $8 million buyout after formally declining his $30 million option for 2024 . . . Clayton Kershaw, now a free agent, is in an interesting position. He recently underwent shoulder surgery that is expected to keep him out until next summer, but he intends to continue pitching. He could sign a deal with the Dodgers and rehab under their care or remain a free agent and perhaps sign with the Rangers during the season if they are again contenders. Kershaw lives a short distance from Globe Life Field and could live at home while playing for Texas. Can you imagine if the Rangers had both Kershaw and Jacob deGrom joining their roster in August? . . . Happy birthday to Ben Taylor, who is 31. The righthander appeared in 14 games for the 2017 Red Sox after being called up in April. He was 0-1 with a save and a 5.19 ERA. The save came in St. Louis to finish a 13-inning game. Taylor was the ninth pitcher the Sox used that day. Taylor pitched briefly for the Guardians in 2018 and ended his playing career after the ‘19 season. Taylor returned to the Sox last season as an assistant minor league strength and conditioning coach based in Fort Myers.