Tony La Russa joins Red Sox front office, will help Dave Dombrowski

BOSTON -- For the Boston Red Sox, the first day of the offseason was about relationships.

Dave Dombrowski has known Tony La Russa for nearly 40 years, since they worked together with the Chicago White Sox. Given the chance to reunite, Dombrowski created a front-office position for La Russa -- vice president and special assistant to the president of baseball operations -- in which the Hall of Fame manager will assist with player development and serve as a consultant to the major and minor league coaching staffs, including rookie manager Alex Cora.

Likewise, Cora has known Ron Roenicke since 1997, when he played for him at Double-A San Antonio. And so, as Cora gets down to the business of assembling his first coaching staff with the Red Sox after winning the World Series as a member of A.J. Hinch's staff with the Houston Astros, he enlisted Roenicke, 61, to be his bench coach.

Relationships, all around.

"Everything you do professionally, if somehow there's a personal connection, I think it adds something to the opportunity," La Russa said Thursday.

In other moves, the Red Sox, as expected, picked up the 2018 options on ace lefty Chris Sale ($12.5 million) and closer Craig Kimbrel ($13 million).

La Russa, 73, spent the past four seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks' front office after 33 seasons as a manager with the White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. With a new regime taking over in Arizona this year, led by former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, La Russa's role there was diminished. He stepped down two weeks ago, but he wanted to continue working in baseball.

Dombrowski believes La Russa will be an asset to the organization, especially considering Cora's lack of managing experience.

"Having a young manager like Alex -- who I am really impressed with -- we don't have anybody in our front office that's managed at the major league level that Alex could come to and say, 'What do you think about this move? What do you think about that move?'" Dombrowski said. "Tony has that knowledge that we don't, and Alex is a sponge. He wants as much information as he possibly can."

Although La Russa was careful to say he won't hover over Cora's shoulder -- "I'm going to be very sensitive to his position, is the best way to put it" -- he described himself as a "resource" and is able to provide perspective on leadership and a winning dynamic in the clubhouse.

Under former manager John Farrell, the Red Sox seemed to slog joylessly to 93 wins and a division title this year, with ace pitcher David Price's verbal humiliation of broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on the team plane serving as a symbol of a clubhouse that lacked veteran accountability.

"The relationship part within the ballclub between manager, coach, players is absolutely critical," La Russa said. "Guys are so distracted by so many things. To get them on the same page is a huge priority for Alex and the coaching staff. And what you find is, if you have a core of players that are willing and able to join into that challenge, to get on the same page, that's really your best scenario. I don't know that [a manager] can be successful today unless you have some players that will co-sign your message."

Roenicke will help Cora deliver his message. He has 27 years of coaching experience and managed the Milwaukee Brewers to a 342-331 record from 2011 to 2015. Roenicke spent the past two seasons as the Los Angeles Angels' third-base coach.

"We wanted Alex to have a veteran bench coach," Dombrowski said. "I did not know this, but Ron actually managed Alex in the minor leagues when he was at the Double-A level, and they remained in contact throughout the years. I thought he was an ideal right-hand man for Alex."

Dombrowski said Cora suggested both Roenicke and newly appointed first-base/outfield coach Tom Goodwin. Cora will inherit new third-base/infield coach Carlos Febles, who managed the Red Sox's Double-A affiliate for the past two seasons. Bullpen coach and catching coordinator Dana LeVangie will be the lone member of Farrell's staff to remain in place under Cora.

The Red Sox have not yet hired a pitching coach, hitting coach or assistant hitting coach. Those positions likely will be in place next week.

Cora, meanwhile, will attend the Astros' World Series parade in Houston on Friday before coming to Boston to attend organizational meetings and get introduced at Fenway Park early next week.

In other procedural moves, infielder Josh Rutledge and lefty reliever Robbie Ross Jr. elected for free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster. Outfielder Bryce Brentz and left-hander Williams Jerez were added to the 40-man roster.