Craig Breslow faces no shortage of challenges as Red Sox baseball boss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The former reliever and member of the 2013 World Series championship team rose to the top of the candidate pool in short order because the Red Sox were impressed with his ability to overhaul the Cubs' minor-league pitching department, intrigued by his background as a player, and swayed by a recommendation from Theo Epstein, the former Red Sox executive who hired Breslow with the Cubs.
Add it together, and they viewed Breslow as the right man to succeed Chaim Bloom, who spent four years building the farm system while mostly finishing in last place.
Breslow must hit the ground on the dead sprint, because the Red Sox face a pivotal offseason, and he is easily the least-experienced baseball boss they've ever hired. That includes Epstein, who assumed the top job at age 28 in 2002, and Bloom, who had worked as an assistant in Tampa.
Breslow operated remotely from his Boston-area home with the Cubs, rising to the rank of assistant general manager, but now he'll be leading an entire department, which means overseeing not just the pitching development program, but negotiating contracts, combing the waiver wire, leading the draft, and any of a million other responsibilities that come with the job.
His first order of business will be to build a big league rotation. The Red Sox had only one pitcher make 25 starts last season, and it was young right-hander Brayan Bello, who wore down in September. They're otherwise relying on the oft-injured Chris Sale, as well as a bunch of swingman types in Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, and Garrett Whitlock. Their best starter by the end of the season, Nick Pivetta, was also one of their best relievers.
There are free agents available, starting with Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to draw the interest of all the big-market teams, including the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers. The domestic market is led by National League Cy Young favorite Blake Snell, as well as postseason standout Jordan Montgomery of the Rangers.
Breslow must also make a dispassionate assessment of the minor-league system. The Red Sox have shifted gears under owner John Henry since Bloom's arrival to focus on building via homegrown talent, and per a source, that is not expected to change. Not every prospect will play in Boston, however, and Bloom has left Breslow with a stocked cupboard from which to trade.
He might use some of that capital to improve the team's defense, which ranked among the worst in baseball, especially up the middle. The full-time return of Trevor Story to shortstop should help the left side of the infield, particularly if Story is able to take some of the heat off starting third baseman Rafael Devers, who remains one of the worst defenders in the league.
But the Red Sox must upgrade at virtually every other spot, including right field if they move on from the underachieving Alex Verdugo. That's no easy task, especially when they return subpar defenders at first (Triston Casas), third (Devers), left (Masataka Yoshida), and center (Jarren Duran).
While there has been some buzz about the Red Sox making a run at free agent superstar Shohei Ohtani, it's hard to imagine they win the bidding against the sport's other deep-pocketed teams. Similarly difficult to fathom is a trade for Padres standout Juan Soto, who will be a free agent next fall.
More likely is that Breslow continues Bloom's work building out the farm, with an emphasis on developing pitchers, which seemingly no Red Sox front office has been able to manage in the last 35 years.
In that sense, he should have some time to learn on the job, because the Red Sox as currently constituted aren't a free agent splash or two away from returning to contention.