The Boston Red Sox on Friday announced that they had declined the $4 million option they held for 2015 on left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, making the 34-year-old pitcher a free agent. In a conference call with reporters Thursday night, general manager Ben Cherington did not rule out the possibility of bringing Breslow back, even though Breslow's performance dipped sharply last season.
Breslow posted a career-best 1.81 ERA in 61 appearances for the Sox in 2013 and was unscored upon in seven appearances in the AL playoffs before having a rough World Series (three hits, two walks and three runs scored over 1/3 IP spanning three appearances). Breslow, who had shared the left-handed setup role with Andrew Miller in 2013, did not come close to duplicating his performance in 2014, posting career worsts in ERA (5.96), walks per nine innings (4.96) and WHIP (1.859), while giving up eight home runs, the most he had surrendered in a season since 2010, with Oakland. As often happens with relievers, Breslow's ERA was skewed by four appearances in which he gave up a total of 18 runs, half of the 36 runs he allowed all season.
"Bres is a really important guy for us," Cherington said Thursday night, "and he's a unique individual off the field, he means a lot and does a lot for baseball off the field, and was a critical performer for us, particularly in 2013.
"He has a lot of good qualities and we have a great relationship with him so we'll see what happens. No matter what happens, we value the relationship and we would bet on him having a bounce-back year next year. He's certainly motivated to do that and capable of doing that."
Breslow is one of four Sox players who remain free agents, along with catcher David Ross, reliever Burke Badenhop and pitcher Ryan Dempster, who earlier this month was reported to have officially retired but has yet to file the necessary paperwork. The Sox on Thursday announced the signing of free-agent closer Koji Uehara to a two-year, $18 million deal.
It appears that the club has no plans to sign any of its other free agents before they become eligible Tuesday to negotiate with any team.
"Talked to Ben two days ago and had a good conversation," said Ross, who would like to return as the team's backup catcher. "I think he wants to see how things play out on his end, but the door is open. Not sure what that means but happy the door is not closed."
Badenhop said he has not heard from the Sox since the end of the season.
"We'll see how all this pans out," he said.
Badenhop, acquired from Milwaukee in a trade for minor leaguer Luis Ortega last November, pitched very well for the Sox, posting a 2.29 ERA in 70 appearances. He induced 14 double plays in 69 opportunities, a 20 percent conversion rate that was the highest of his career. The 14 GIDP were the most by any American League reliever and one fewer than Brandon League of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the major league leader.
"I want to be someplace I'm valued," Badenhop said when the season ended. "I obviously would love to come back here. I loved it here. I think I thrived in the AL East.
"I feel like I took the next step because [manager] John [Farrell] allowed me to. He gave me chances to shine, put me in high-leverage situations."
The sinker-balling Badenhop pitched in 23 high-leverage situations, the most in his career.
"But at the same time, my good season, my good stats, are a credit to all these other guys in the bullpen," he said. "There were plenty of times Craig Breslow stranded my runners, Andrew Miller comes in and does what he does, just as I have for them. It's such a synergy. If they're looking to build a bullpen, I think I'm a good complement, a different look that can help a winning bullpen."