John Tomase

Breslow's bets on future could pay off, but raise an obvious question

Why can't the Red Sox make moves for the future while simultaneously upgrading this year's team?

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If there's a throughline connecting Craig Breslow's most recent moves, it's obvious – they're not about 2024.

In signing rehabbing pitchers Michael Fulmer and Liam Hendriks, and trading useful reliever John Schreiber to the Royals for a prospect, Breslow is laying a foundation of future pitching depth, some of it with proven big-league upside, while continuing to make it clear that this year is what it is.

Hendriks provides further proof that the Red Sox are once again prioritizing the future over the present, which makes this year five of that plan. As reported by MassLive, the All-Star closer is in agreement on a two-year, $10 million deal with incentives that could push the total value to $20 million.

The 35-year-old almost certainly won't pitch this season, because he's still recovering from August Tommy John surgery, which came on the heels of a return from cancer that earned him the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

He can rehab alongside Fulmer, a former Tigers Rookie of the Year and All-Star, who is also expected to miss the season after undergoing elbow surgery of his own. Fulmer signed a two-year minor-league deal earlier this month.

As for the prospect they received from the Royals, right-hander David Sandlin, he has yet to pitch above Single-A, so he's unlikely to see Boston this summer, either. But The Athletic's Keith Law ranked him the No. 7 prospect in Kansas City's system and he has considerable upside.

If you're inclined to believe the Red Sox are punting on this season, these deals will do nothing to dissuade you, and nor should they. I like the approach in a vacuum – Breslow, in particular, seems to have sold high on Schreiber, who was nowhere near as effective last year as in 2022 and can easily be replaced with internal options – but there's no reason all three moves couldn't have been part of a bigger whole.

Put another way, why must the future always be the sole focus? The Red Sox could've also paid a starter like Jordan Montgomery and an outfielder like Teoscar Hernandez without compromising their ability to complete any of the aforementioned deals. Predecessor Chaim Bloom made a number of similar signings, such as left-hander James Paxton and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, and the frustration was always the same. Why can't resources be devoted to the current team, too?

Recently-signed pitcher Michael Fulmer will be rehabbing alongside Liam Hendriks to start the 2024 season. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I'd imagine there are players in the clubhouse who respect Hendriks' recovery from non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma yet nonetheless wonder why that $10 million couldn't be used right now, especially since ownership has made it clear that payroll probably won't even reach last year's level of $225 million. The flyers that Dan Duquette (Bret Saberhagen, Ramon Martinez) and Theo Epstein (Matt Mantei, Mike Lowell) took on reclamation projects never felt like they came at the expense of more impactful moves, and in the case of Lowell, in particular, they paid off handsomely.

Why does it have to be one or the other when it can so obviously be both?

The answer is that the Red Sox are obsessed with the idea of building their next great team around homegrown talent, and ever since Dave Dombrowski left, they've basically been operating on the principle that anything that helps today might hurt tomorrow.

Perhaps a third straight last-place finish will change their mind.

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