Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Craig Breslow and the Red Sox have been together now for just a couple of months, but here are the questions: are these still the same old Red Sox? Is Breslow different from Chaim Bloom? Or did the Red Sox just try to hire a different version of the same guy?

Right now, it feels like the latter.

Yes, again, it’s early. But we here in the Boston media are in the business of, as Theo Epstein once called them, “snapshot evaluations.” It’s really up to you whether you want to take this all with a grain of salt. But if we’re looking at the first 60 days(ish) of Breslow the same way we might look at the first 100 days of an American Presidency, well, the policies look rather familiar. Breslow has been cost-conscious while emphasizing the long term over the short, which is to say that he’s done exactly what Bloom did.

And while he may be doing it better, we won’t really know that until later.

Nonetheless, after the Red Sox dealt Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves over the weekend for second baseman(?) Vaughn Grissom, Bloom had his first press briefing of the offseason following what might be called a major move. The Red Sox paid a steep price for Sale when they traded for him late in 2016, an even steeper one when they foolishly re-signed him to a five-year, $145 million extension. They even paid $17 million of his remaining salary to trade him to Atlanta.

Was Sale worth it? Yes and no. In retrospect, let the record show that Sale’s only full season in Boston was his first one – when he made 32 starts, struck out 308 batters and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award balloting. Obviously, the team then won the World Series in 2018. But Sale has been largely a non-factor since, finishing his Red Sox career with 115 starts over seven seasons, an average of just 16 per year.

So, when Breslow did what Bloom failed to – rid the Sox of Sale’s contract – well, yes, that qualifies as a big move.

In discussing the Sale (and Grissom) deal, Bloom addressed a number of issues from both the trade and his first two months as the Red Sox’ chief baseball decision maker during a media session that lasted less than 15 minutes. Here are a handful of the highlights, which feature the actual audio from the media session so that you can listen for yourself:

  • Breslow on why he traded Chris Sale

    Just a couple of quick thoughts here. First, Breslow sounds an awful lot like Bloom when he points out that his job is to do what is in the best interest of the Red Sox in both the long term and the short term. So fine. But let’s not kid ourselves. Grissom will turn just 23 on Jan. 5 and has no real major league track record to speak of. Before the offseason, Breslow addressed Sale’s place on the club by suggesting they expected him to be a full-go in 2024. By paying much of Sale’s salary, what the Red Sox did here was to effectively buy a player, which is exactly the kind of thing they should be doing.

    One small thing to like? At the end of this comment, Breslow says of this move, “It was one thing that I needed to do.” Got that? I. Call me crazy, but most executives speak in the context of we, especially early on in their tenures or careers. The fact that Breslow did not is potentially a good sign. Whether intentional or not, he’s taking ownership of the decision. He’s not placating people. It’s a small thing, maybe nothing. But it stuck out.

  • Breslow’s general thoughts on Grissom

    There are an array of nuggets in this comment and we have more specifics coming, so let’s stick to the generalities to start. The phrase “positional versatility” always makes me nervous, particularly when it relates to someone who can hit. Why? Because it speaks to defensive uncertainty. In 329 career minor league games, Grissom has batted .320 with an .884 OPS, 59 stolen bases and 32 home runs. He didn’t strike out much and walked his fair share. If you count designated hitter, he’s also played four positions – second base, third base, shortstop and DH. Interestingly, during Breslow’s media session, he never once mentioned Grissom’s defensive abilities (or lack thereof).

    The good news? Grissom’s offensive abilities seem to fit the modern game. He puts the ball in play, has some power, can run some. (Hence the term “dynamic athlete.”) Breslow emphasized that the Sox have Grissom for “six years of control” – again, that’s long term – and that the Sox considered him a part of their “core” of young players. If you ask me, Grissom feels like a better version of Nick Yorke, the soon-to-be 22-year-old who was Bloom’s very first pick (first round, 17th overall) in the 2020 draft and now feels like trade bait.

  •  Breslow’s more specific thoughts on Grissom

    The key phrase in this entire comment rests in those nine words at the very end: “We view him as someone that can play everyday.” We view him. That’s a projection. Remember that Grissom was a shortstop who struggled at that position defensively, so the Braves gave the starting job last season to Orlando Arcia, now a 29-year-old with a career .679 OPS. The Braves have 27-year-old Ozzie Albies at second base, where he posted an .849 OPS, 33 home runs, 109 RBI and 13 steals last season. So yes, Grissom was available. But how many teams trade away a young (read: cheap) player with great promise if they are fully sold on him?

    One more thing – and we pointed this out yesterday: over the 2022-23 seasons, there were 74 second basemen who played at least 350 combined innings at the position. Grissom ranked 68th in outs above average behind, among others, Red Sox second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, who was terrible defensively. For a team that has been preaching improved defense, Grissom doesn’t feel like an answer – at least not yet.

  • Breslow on Grissom’s bat

    Sense any recurring themes here? It starts with the bat. And versatility. And six years of control. All of that makes sense. The Red Sox believe that Grissom’s bat plays, as Alex Cora might put it, but that value goes up exponentially if he can play second base at an adequate level. We’ll have to see how that shakes out. Also, Grissom feels like he should hit more home runs than he does, so keep an eye on that – and on whether the Sox eventually end up tinkering with his swing.

    I know we said this already, but Grissom feels like only part of the return for Sale. If the Sox end up moving someone like Yorke in a package for a good, young pitcher, the deal becomes Sale, Yorke and $17 million for Grissom and Pitcher X. Something like that could help the Sox in the short term at a place they are most desperate: the mound.

  • Breslow on Yamamoto

    Wait, what does this have to do with the Sale trade? The answer: nothing. But it’s also the first time anybody from the Red Sox has said something publicly about the pursuit of Yamamoto, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And Breslow didn’t exactly inspire confidence with his answer. His suggestion that the sides didn’t “align” suggests that Yamamoto either didn’t want to to come to Boston or that the Red Sox weren’t in the same financial universe – and neither is a good thing.

    Don’t let Breslow fool you. The Red Sox badly wanted this pitcher. Yamamoto either told them to pound sand or they didn’t have the stomach to pony up. Or both. After Bloom reportedly balked at trading Sale (and dumping the money) because he didn’t like the return, Breslow pulled the trigger. That’s a good sign. But the fact that both were essentially looking to do the same thing is a little worrisome, especially amid recent reports that the Red Sox are still looking for ways to trim payroll.

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