What will Craig Breslow’s top priorities be as he revamps the Red Sox?

The Red Sox have found their new chief baseball officer and now the work to revamp the club begins.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Red Sox officially announced Craig Breslow’s hiring with a press conference set for Thursday, Nov. 2 at Fenway Park.

In a statement, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said, in part: “After the 2018 World Series, we sought to build a future that would avoid the ups and downs normally associated with winning. That plainly hasn’t happened. Despite the results, over the past few years, substantial efforts have been made and considerable organizational progress has occurred behind the scenes, but not at the major league level.”

Breslow, who retired from playing in 2018 made a quick transition into baseball operations taking a job as the Chicago Cubs director of strategic initiatives in 2019 before rising to assistant general manager/senior vice president of pitching in 2023. With four years of front office experience, Breslow will be thrust into the top role in Boston and there’s little time to waste.

The league’s General Manager’s meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. begin four days after his introduction at Fenway and will serve as Breslow’s first official duties in charge of the team as he settles into the role with plenty on his to-do list.

Front office shuffling

Breslow will be inheriting a fairly well-established front office group with assistant GMs Eddie Romero, Raquel Ferreira and Mike Groopman, as well as senior vice presidents Brian O’Halloran and Ben Crockett. It’s also possible that VP of Scouting Mike Rikard, VP of Scouting Development and Integration Gus Quattlebaum and VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul Toboni have their roles elevated. Toboni, who ran the draft for the Red Sox from 2020-22, was among the internal candidates who interviewed for Breslow’s job — as was Romero.

But Breslow likely will want to bring in at least one of his own hires to the front office, whether that’s a general manager or another executive. Different organizations have different rules in terms of how many executives can be hired away. For instance, Chaim Bloom couldn’t hire anyone from Tampa Bay for two years. The Cubs would likely allow Breslow to hire one executive, though it’s unclear at the moment if that is a set rule. Breslow worked closely and spoke highly of assistant director of pitching Ryan Otero as well as senior pitching coordinator Casey Jacobson and assistant pitching coordinator Carlos Chantres, but it’s also possible the Cubs would promote one or more of those people within their organization. While Breslow has just four years of front-office experience, adding a more experienced GM (like Bloom had in O’Halloran) seems likely. Whether that is someone internal like Romero or someone external, figures to be an early decision in his tenure.

New coaches

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Breslow inherits Alex Cora as manager. (Jonathan Dyer / USA TODAY)

Breslow will also need to sort out the big-league coaching staff. Alex Cora has already been assured he’s returning as manager, but it’s worth noting that Cora and game planning coordinator Jason Varitek were teammates with Breslow in his first stint in Boston from 2006-07. Breslow took the job knowing he’d be working closely with Cora, yet their dynamic will be one to watch. Moreover, there are other major league coaching openings that need to be filled, particularly on the pitching side.

The Red Sox fired both major league pitching coach Dave Bush and Triple-A pitching coach Paul Abbott at the end of the season. One name that has been floated recently for the big league pitching coach job is Andrew Bailey, another former Red Sox pitcher, and one whom Breslow pitched with in Boston and Oakland. The two are very close and run the Strike 3 Foundation, which raises money and awareness for childhood cancer. Bailey has been pitching coach in San Francisco since 2020 but with the Giants recently replacing manager Gabe Kapler with Bob Melvin, Bailey’s status in San Francisco is uncertain. The Red Sox also fired third base and infielder’s coach Carlos Febles and will be seeking a replacement there.

Player development

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How Breslow handles Brayan Bello’s future will be telling. (Elsa / Getty Images)

The Red Sox farm system has made strides in recent years and is currently ranked among the best in baseball, yet it’s a group top-heavy with position player talent rather than pitching. Breslow’s arrival figures to change that. The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma has covered the growth of the Cubs’ pitching lab extensively, a project in which Breslow was intimately involved, from its creation in 2018 and 2019 to where it stands in more recent years with the Cubs seeing impressive strides among their minor league pitchers. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Breslow implement something similar in Boston. Meanwhile, the Red Sox made a series of hires last year to fortify their player development group with many of those hires coming from Driveline, Cressey Performance and other similar analytically-driven private baseball facilities. Given Breslow’s background in data and analysis, similar hires or growth in that department would not be surprising.

Roster building

There will be plenty of organizational changes with Breslow on board, but most important will be how he retools the Red Sox roster and brings the big league club back into contention in the American League East after two straight last-place finishes. Several questions await Breslow. Will he trade Alex Verdugo? How much will he trade from the Red Sox prospect pool? How will he map out the Red Sox outfield? How will he address second base? What will the Red Sox do at designated hitter? Will he try to work out a new deal with Justin Turner — if and when he declines Turner’s player option —or will he find another solution at DH? Perhaps most pressing, which pitchers will the team pursue this winter? How hard will they go after top free agents Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Aaron Nola, Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell?

Young player extensions

Less pressing but still among the priorities will be how Breslow addresses contract extensions for young players including Brayan Bello and Triston Casas. The model of locking up young talent years in advance of free agency (or even arbitration) remains an ever-growing trend in baseball and an opportunity the Red Sox likely won’t want to waste as both Bello and Casas enter their second full seasons in the majors in 2024. How will Breslow assess each player’s value and will it match up with the existing evaluations from the current front office group?

(Top photo: Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY)

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