The Red Sox are leaving no stone unturned in their search for new baseball operations leadership.
In part because, apparently, they have to.
There’s a bevy of options, but the talk-to-strikeout ratio isn’t balanced in Boston’s favor. With Kim Ng officially taking herself out of the running, the list of “No’s” balloons to at least 10. (That’s not including former GM Theo Epstein, either.)
While Mike Hazen and Amiel Sawdaye received extensions from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and former Astros GM James Click dropped out after his interview, Ng and the other six known candidates turned down the Red Sox in the interview invitation stage.
In the hours following their firing of Chaim Bloom on Sept. 14, team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said he anticipated “a broader search” this time around.
“One that, frankly, could take a while,” he cautioned.
But did the brass expect this level of disinterest? Red Sox assistant GM Raquel Ferreira is one of several executives who cited family reasons when turning down the club’s invitation, but other internal options are among at least seven candidates currently in consideration. Assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Michael Groopman, and VP of amateur scouting and player development, Paul Toboni, are in the mix, along with current Minnesota Twins GM Thad Levine and former Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington.
Likewise for two of Boston’s World Series champions.
Craig Breslow, who pitched for Boston in 2006 and 2012-15, is considered a top candidate. He’s currently a Chicago Cubs assistant GM and vice president of pitching, and he’s transformed their minor league pitching development, an area in which the Red Sox could certainly use some help. Nicknamed “the smartest man in baseball,” he majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry while leading the Ivy League with a 2.56 ERA his senior year at Yale.
Breslow, who lives in Newton and often works for the Cubs remotely, is a natural fit for the Red Sox in many ways. The surprising, controversial name that popped up late this week is Gabe Kapler, who brings a diverse resumé with a few suboptimal highlights to the table.
Kapler, who played for the Red Sox from 2003-06, has leadership experience at both field and front office levels. He’s spent the last six seasons managing the Philadelphia Phillies (2018-19) and San Francisco Giants, who fired him during the last week of the season, but his first professional managing gig was with the Red Sox.
When he retired for the first time in December 2006, he managed their Single-A affiliate Greenville Drive for the 2007 season. He un-retired and spent the 2008 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, and the following two with the Tampa Bay Rays, then he retired for good in 2011 when the Los Angeles Dodgers released him at the end of spring training.
Over the last decade and change, Kapler has done everything from coach Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic to working as a television analyst for FOX Sports and writing for Baseball Prospectus.
But during and after Kapler served as the Dodgers’ director of player development from 2014-17, his tenure was marked by accusations – including from Nick Francona, Terry Francona’s son and former assistant director of player development, reporting directly to Kapler – that he mishandled assault allegations. In February 2015, a 17-year-old girl first accused two Dodgers prospects and two older women of domestic violence in a third Dodgers player’s hotel room near the team’s spring training complex in Arizona.
A week later, the girl told police she had also been sexually assaulted by one of the players, something Kapler maintains he was never made aware of. In lieu of traditional punishment, Kapler required (the players) to undergo training for “being a good teammate,” reported Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim in 2019. “Specifically, the players were assigned to write essays about Dodgers history, take nature walks, practice yoga and meditation, clean the team’s weight room and watch motivational videos.”
The club later released the player, but he was never charged. (Alex Verdugo was among those present at the first incident, but cleared of wrongdoing.)
Less than a year later, another Dodgers minor leaguer was accused of sexual assault at the same Arizona hotel. Once again, the player was released. The following spring, several Dodgers players, including a top prospect, were caught on surveillance tapes harassing female guests at the same hotel.
Throughout, Kapler reported up the chain of command, something confirmed by the league’s investigation and the Giants’ additional vetting before hiring him. But Major League Baseball only became aware of these incidents when law enforcement informed them in April 2017. The league investigated Kapler, and by the following month, had quietly cleared him of wrongdoing.
In general, Kapler is a curious candidate to captain Boston’s baseball operations. He’s gained a plethora of experience in his post-playing years, but little success to date, and it’s been over half a decade since he worked on the baseball operations side. With the Dodgers, he was known for a unique leadership style, “instituting no rules, but rather expectations,” wrote Wertheim.
Would that work for the Red Sox?