Brian Bannister, the Red Sox director and then vice president of pitching development since 2015 and an assistant pitching coach on the big league staff from 2016-19, is leaving the team to join the San Francisco Giants front office.
Bannister confirmed his departure — first reported by Jon Morosi of MLB.com — via Twitter.
“It was a dream to call Fenway my office, and to be a very small part of a historic run in Boston,” Bannister wrote on Twitter.
Bannister, 38, who spent parts of five seasons pitching in the big leagues, joined the Sox in early 2015 as a pro scout and analyst. But his ability to blend data, analytics, and biomechanics in a language that connected easily with pitchers made clear to the Sox that he was well-suited for a broader role, leading to his promotion to director of pitching analysis and development in Sept. 2015 — around the same time that he helped Rich Hill’s transformation in Triple-A Pawtucket from journeyman to frontline starter.
Initially, Bannister worked with minor leaguers in the first half of 2016. But when the Red Sox rotation struggled badly in the first half of 2016, Bannister was asked to join the staff as an assistant pitching coach, a role in which he served with pitching coaches Carl Willis (2016-17) and Dana LeVangie (2018-19).
Several pitchers credited Bannister — in conjunction with Willis and LeVangie — with helping them to better understand their strengths or to identify adjustments that helped them turn struggles into more consistently effective performances. From 2016-18, the Red Sox staff had a 3.83 ERA that ranked third in the American League, a testament to a pitching infrastructure — and pitching talent — operating at a high level.
Yet Bannister’s interest was not just in the big league team but also in the Red Sox’ minor league pitching development. And so, in 2019, he spent a significant amount of time away from the big league club to work with the system’s minor league pitchers — a year in which the Sox saw strong performances and developmental strides from Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor in the majors and Bryan Mata and Thad Ward in the minors.
Eventually, the combination of pitcher development and big league coaching responsibilities involved more travel than Bannister wanted.
After a disappointing 2019 season in the big leagues, the Red Sox wanted to reshape their big league pitching infrastructure, and Bannister — who lives in the Bay Area — wanted to spend more time at home. So, both LeVangie (reassigned from pitching coach to a pro scout) and Bannister (whose role was redefined just to his pitching development responsibilities) were reassigned.
Bannister said at the time that he “[looked] forward to impacting the Red Sox organization once again full-time on the data-driven development side while restoring some of the work/life balance on the personal side of things.”
The chance to work in the Giants’ front office offers an even more natural chance to do just that. Though Bannister had a year remaining on his contract, the Red Sox gave him permission to join San Francisco.
All of that said, while Bannister certainly helped the Red Sox to develop a pitching analysis and development infrastructure that was more advanced than when he joined the Sox, the organization feels that it has reached a point of maturity in that area to withstand Bannister’s departure.
The team already had been deep into the interview process to fill the role of minor league pitching coordinator of performance — a role that Dave Bush occupied last year, before he was elevated to big league pitching coach this offseason. While the team will replace Bush with a hire to oversee its minor league pitchers, according to a team source, there are no plans to fill Bannister’s role of VP of pitching development.
Hernandez, Osich agree
Just a couple of days after being non-tendered, both infielder Marco Hernandez and reliever Josh Osich agreed to one-year deals with the Red Sox on Wednesday. Hernandez is set to make $650,000 in base salary in the majors, and Osich would earn $850,000 in the majors, according to major league sources.
Osich was acquired off waivers from the White Sox at the end of October. He posted a 4.66 ERA in a career-high 67⅔ innings with Chicago last season. However, the 31-year-old lefthander excelled against lefties, yielding just a .171 batting average in 115 plate appearances. He has an upper-90s fastball to go along with a sweeping slider and a good changeup.
Hernandez, 27, didn’t perform well down the stretch last season when afforded the opportunity. In September, he hit just .169 in 60 plate appearances while striking out 23 times. But the Sox front office and manager Alex Cora envision him as a valuable utility option. And with Brock Holt likely to have suitors in free agency, Hernandez could be a possible replacement.
The Sox’ 40-man roster is now at 36.
PawSox on board
The Pawtucket Red Sox endorsed the newly created Save Minor League Baseball Task Force that has been organized by members of Congress to prevent Major League Baseball from eliminating 42 minor league franchises. “We appreciate the support of Representatives Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), and the members of the task force in standing up for Minor League Baseball and speaking out against the effort to cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment, and undermine grassroots support for our great game,” said PawSox executive vice president Dan Rea.
Julian McWilliams contributed to this report.