During Craig Breslow’s two stays with the Red Sox
Was happly end
SCOTTSDALE — During Craig Breslow’s two stays with the Red Sox — first in 2006, and later from 2012-2015 — there was no doubt as to who should handle the DH responsibilities.
The Red Sox had David Ortiz, and that was that. Year in, and year out, from 2003 through 2016, from his age 27 season to his age 40 season, Ortiz was a fixture in the lineup as the designated hitter. Seven times, Ortiz was a Silver Slugger winner at DH. In eight seasons, Ortiz was the Edgar Martinez Award winner, given annually to the top DH in the game.
In 14 seasons, Ortiz hit 483 homers and knocked in 1,530, earning him election to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Debate? None needed.
Now, however, things are considerably murkier. Justin Turner, who filled the role well last year (.800 OPS, 96 RBI) while starting 98 games as the DH, declined his player option with the Red Sox for 2024 and is a free agent. Turner, who turns 39 later this month, is probably looking for a two-year commitment and the Red Sox may be reluctant to give him that.
There other potential targets on the free agent market, most of whom are younger, including Jorge Soler and J.D. Martinez, who played for the Sox from 2018 through 2022. And, of course, there’s Shohei Ohtani.
But in the last half-dozen or so seasons, the trend around the game has been to utilize several players in the role, rather than one specifically. Last year, only six players appeared in 100 or more games as the DH for their club: Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna (140 games), Los Angeles’s Ohtani (134) Washington’s Joey Meneses (131), LA’s Martinez (109), Chicago’s Eloy Jimenez (104) and Miami’s Soler (101)
The other 25 teams mostly mixed up their DH at-bats, with many providing the opportunity for their veteran position players to get some time off from defensive responsibilities.
Which path does Breslow favor? That depends.
“On a high level, we’d probably look to give Alex (Cora) as much flexibility as possible,” said Breslow, “recognizing that it’s a long season and there will be times when he’s going to look to get guys off their feat but keep their bats in the lineup. I don’t think there’s one (specific) way to do it.
“Obviously, I played with a guy who manned the DH spot for quite some time and was pretty successful doing it. Short of that, having as many kind of creative possibilities as we can arrange is what makes sense.”
Breslow, then, wouldn’t rule out giving the majority of at-bats to one player, providing that player could be highly productive in that role. Otherwise, he seems inclined to divide up the playing time among several players.
There’s another factor at work here, too: the Red Sox have a number of below-average defenders who might benefit from having to focus only on hitting. Third baseman Rafael Devers and left fielder Masataka Yoshida fit that category, and to a lesser extent, so does first baseman Triston Casas.
It’s possible, too, that the Sox could find a righthanded hitter who could serve as the DH half the time, while also contributing in the outfield, first base or third base.
Soler could play left field, though Soler is not much of an outfielder himself and would represent only a slight upgrade over Yoshida in left. Another option would be to bring back Adam Duvall, who could split time between DH, the outfield and a right-handed counterpoint to Casas at first base. (Duvall has made 43 appearances at first base in his career, though, it should be noted, none since 2018).