John Tomase

Craig Breslow can win Red Sox offseason hitting doubles, not home runs

A "big splash" may not necessarily be in Boston's best interest.

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The Red Sox hired Craig Breslow to be bold and aggressive, leading to fantasies of an offseason that immediately returns the club to World Series contention.

That's unrealistic, not to mention counterproductive -- rushing to patch too many holes inevitably creates new ones now or down the line. (For a recent local example, just consider the Patriots' worthless offseason crap-stravaganza of 2021.)

We'd be wise to temper our expectations to reflect a more reasonable definition of success this winter, because the Red Sox aren't just one free-agent haul away from competing for a championship. But they can acquire pieces over the next three months that eventually make that goal attainable, and on a faster timeline than the slow build that cost Chaim Bloom his job.

Breslow's task begins in earnest over the next few days at baseball's winter meetings in Nashville. The Red Sox have yet to make a deal of note, but they're hardly alone, with MLB's offseason off to a typically slow start. That should change this week.

Just don't expect some kind of monster winter that brings Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, and Shane Bieber to Boston -- not to mention Shohei Ohtani or Juan Soto. Any one of those starting pitchers, along with a right-handed bat to balance the lineup and an everyday second baseman to address the club's porous infield defense, would qualify as a win, even if it feels underwhelming.

There's going to be a temptation to label any offseason that doesn't replenish the roster with superstars a failure, but not only are there are no quick fixes coming off three last-place finishes in four years, there's little point in pursuing them. Winning the winter hardly guarantees anything, as the Padres learned all too painfully last year.

Breslow's job is to make the Red Sox competitive with a representative roster that, at the very least, leaves us paying full price for Yankees tickets in September. Clearing out the top of the free agent market isn't the way to get there.

A year ago, for instance, the top free agents were Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Xander Bogaerts, Aaron Judge, Willson Contreras, Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and Carlos Rodón. A team that hypothetically signed any three of them invariably would've been disappointed, between injuries (Judge, deGrom), underperformance (Correa, Contreras), or both (Rodón).

That's a common pattern, and a reason why the Red Sox appear content to build largely from within. Chasing free agents is no way to sustain a winner. (Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval say hello.)

Reports that Boston is pivoting away from Ohtani, combined with a lack of buzz surrounding any pursuit of Soto, is actually OK. The former has too much uncertainty around his surgically repaired elbow, while the latter would be a one-year rental, albeit an insanely talented one. Better to focus on players who can contribute beyond 2024 and/or won't cost them pieces for the future.

Breslow thus far has kept his cards close, but here's an offseason I'd be happy with: sign Montgomery and Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga to bolster the rotation, exploit Milwaukee's looming rebuild to acquire infielder Willy Adames as a one-year stopgap to play either second or short opposite Trevor Story, and sign Red Sox-killer Teoscar Hernández as a right-handed hitting outfielder with pop, as evidenced by his two Silver Slugger awards.

Is that offseason going to inspire anyone to unfurl a "Mission Accomplished!" banner from the Green Monster? No. But it will point the Red Sox in the right direction, make them a more viable playoff contender, and hopefully give us a reason to watch next summer. Baby steps.

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