How Craig Breslow became a top candidate for Red Sox GM job

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Since news began trickling out about the Red Sox search for a new head of baseball operations, one of the more intriguing names bandied about has been Craig Breslow.

The former Red Sox pitcher and current Chicago Cubs assistant general manager and senior vice president of pitching is reportedly among a handful of candidates known to have interviewed for the job, and on Wednesday night Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reported that Breslow is in advanced discussions to join Boston’s front office.

Whether those discussions ultimately bear fruit remains to be seen, and it’s not clear if Breslow would immediately ascend to the top job or slot in as the No. 2 under a new president of baseball operations. Either way, the 43-year-old Breslow appears to have a real shot.

That might seem surprising for some, especially fans who feel like Breslow was pitching out of the Red Sox bullpen just yesterday, but the lefty has always been regarded as one of the most intelligent people in the game. Once he made the jump to the front office ranks he quickly established himself as a rising star, and whether it’s in Boston, Chicago or someplace else it’s clear he has a bright future ahead of him.

Rave reviews

Breslow pitched for 12 seasons in the big leagues as a left-handed reliever between 2005-17, including five with the Red Sox. His best season came in 2013, when he was a key member of Boston’s World Series championship squad and posted a 1.81 ERA over 59.2 innings and 61 appearances.

Following his retirement Breslow was recruited by Theo Epstein to join the Cubs front office, and since starting in 2019 he’s become deeply involved in the organization’s efforts to overhaul its pitching development program. He was elevated to director of pitching and later to his current assistant GM role, and where the Cubs previously struggled to develop homegrown arms Breslow’s efforts have produced a wave of talented pitchers who are already making an impact in the majors.

Look no further than the strides made this year by Cy Young contender Justin Steele and by 2021 first-round pick Jordan Wicks. For an organization like Boston that has struggled to consistently develop high-end pitching talent, Breslow’s track record has obvious appeal.

Right place, right time

One common refrain we’ve heard throughout the search process is that potential targets have declined to pursue the Red Sox job due to family considerations.

In Breslow’s case, the family element might actually work in Boston’s favor.

Originally from Connecticut, Breslow has deep ties to New England and still lives a short drive from Fenway Park. The Yale graduate has often worked remotely from his home in Newton since joining the Cubs front office, so while many candidates have balked at uprooting their families to come to Boston, Breslow’s circumstances would make the role uniquely appealing.

Breslow also has familiarity with most of the front office dating back to his playing days and presumably a good understanding of how the organization currently functions. If Breslow is hired, that familiarity could help him hit the ground running and implement the changes he feels will help the Red Sox unlock their potential.

Worth the risk?

The downside to Breslow’s candidacy is even compared to many other recently retired players who have successfully transitioned to the front office world, he is very inexperienced. Breslow is not the Cubs top decision-maker or even it’s No. 2 man, and so far he’s thrived in a comparatively narrow role with fewer responsibilities related to executing transactions, negotiating contracts and running a baseball operations department as a whole.

That being said, Breslow would inherit a well-established front office infrastructure including executive vice president of baseball operations Brian O’Halloran and the trio of assistant GMs Eddie Romero, Raquel Ferreira and Michael Groopman to help handle all of those things. Alternatively, the Red Sox could elevate Romero or hire another outside candidate as president of baseball operations and install Breslow as GM, which would still represent a big promotion from his current job in Chicago.

You also don’t have to look hard for proof someone with Breslow’s background can thrive in the big chair.

Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young, also an Ivy League graduate and a recently retired MLB pitcher, was only 41 when he was hired in late 2020. Under his leadership the Rangers have aggressively surrounded their homegrown core with high-end outside talent, and now Texas is back in the ALCS for the first time since 2011.

One area where Young has excelled, and where former Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom often drew criticism, is the ability to keep his finger on the pulse of the clubhouse. The past couple summers Red Sox players often expressed frustration over the team’s relative inactivity at the trade deadline, which may have contributed to the club’s second half swoons.

Young, a former player, understood that waiting for the club to get healthy would send the wrong message and swung several big deals that helped keep the Rangers afloat. Breslow also understands those clubhouse dynamics, and having already won a World Series title here he might be better equipped than most to navigate life as Boston’s baseball boss.

If nothing else Breslow’s already done enough to warrant serious consideration, now it will be fascinating to see if the Red Sox ultimately hand him the ball.

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