We move ahead to the third piece of BoSox Injection’s “25 in 25” series and the next man up is one of the toughest players on the 2015 team to place, left-handed reliever Craig Breslow.
Breslow’s 2014 season was like a nightmare following the dream that was his 2013 season. On Boston’s World Series run in 2013, the Connecticut native threw in 61 games for the Red Sox and posted a stingy 1.81 ERA across 59.2 innings pitched. However, despite his strong ERA, his peripherals didn’t quite support his success, with his 3.60 FIP and 1.83 K/BB suggesting that Breslow was more a middle reliever than the ace setup man that he had appeared to be down the stretch. So, when 2014 rolled around, it was tough to know what to expect from Breslow.
As it turned out, though, even a projection as a middle reliever would have been optimistic for Breslow. His ERA ballooned to a terrible 5.96 and, while his peripherals didn’t suggest that he was quite that bad, his 5.34 FIP and 1.32 K/BB don’t paint a very rosy picture either. Breslow’s lack of success stemmed from simply a general increase in base runners allowed; his walk rate rose from 2.7 in 2013 to 4.6 last season and he allowed a horrendous 12.1 hits per nine innings, a number well above his career H/9 rate of 8.0.
The Red Sox declined their $4M option on Breslow in November and all signs pointed to the two parties cutting ties. However, the Red Sox elected to bring Breslow back for the 2015 season by signing him to a low-risk $2M contract in one of the more curious moves for the front office this offseason.
However, despite Breslow’s complete ineffectiveness last season, there is some hope for a turnaround. Breslow was likely impacted by injuries, which caused him to miss the beginning of the season, and at full health, he could return to form. After all, he has never been that bad over an extended period, featuring a career 3.20 ERA across nine major league seasons.
In a best case scenario, last season was an aberration rather than the beginning of a period of sharp decline. Unfortunately, though, even a fully healthy Breslow performing at his best may not be the elite lefty that he was for the Red Sox in 2012 and 2013. At 34 years old, it’s probably unreasonable to expect another excellent season out of Breslow, as he could be trending down from setup man to middle reliever.
Breslow has one of the lowest ceilings of anybody on the Red Sox; however, he was a low-risk signing and it’s tough to argue with a $2M acquisition. If he can have some kind of a return to form, the Red Sox will (at least) get their money’s worth, and if he completely falls apart, then they can cut ties without much of a problem.