Yoshinobu Yamamoto represented Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The 25-year-old, who won three Eiji Sawamura Awards as Japan’s top pitcher, will compete in Major League Baseball next season. AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Major League Baseball’s winter meetings began Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, a sprawling complex featuring more than 2,800 guest rooms and over 700,000 square feet of meeting space. Plenty of room for 30 teams to conduct their business … or to find a quiet space to get a deal done out of the media spotlight.

For the Boston Red Sox, these meetings aren’t just about who is or isn’t added to the roster. It’s about the first true glimpse of what type of baseball executive Craig Breslow will be. These are the early days of his reign as Boston’s chief baseball officer, his first winter meetings in charge of a team’s baseball operations.

Breslow has been clear about the team’s biggest need for the coming year. The Red Sox need to upgrade their starting pitching, and the new baseball boss has been outspoken about his plans to address those needs.

Now we’ll see if he can deliver on that promise. Top arms like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Yoshinobu Yamamoto remain available. Signing one of these pitchers would send a clear signal to Red Sox Nation that the team was back in the business or going after top free agents.

Entering this year’s meetings, it was hard not to think back on the 2016 meetings held at another Gaylord Resort. Dave Dombrowski had made it clear that he was hoping to add a starter, a reliever, and an impact bat before arriving at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland.

He addressed all three needs, scoring a hat trick over 72 hours. By the time the meetings ended Dombrowski had traded for starter Chris Sale and signed reliever Tyler Thornburg and first baseman Mitch Moreland to build on a team that had made the playoffs but had been swept in the first round by the Houston Astros. The Sox would return to the playoffs in each of the next two seasons, ultimately winning their fourth World Series of the millennium in 2018.


It’s rare to see a team publicly address its needs before going out and acquiring players who can deliver. Breslow has already told us what he wants. Now we wait to see how he fills out his wish list as the holidays approach.

Yamamoto represents an interesting case for the Boston front office. The Red Sox have had success bringing Japanese stars to town. Masataka Yoshida has just completed his first full MLB season with Boston. Daisuke Matsuzaka helped the Sox win a World Series in 2007. Much of Breslow’s front office remains intact from those two signings, and should have the wherewithal to land another Asian superstar.

The week began with reports that Yamamoto would be engaged in Zoom conversations this week before coming to the U.S. for in-person interviews. The competition for his services will be stiff. Many of the biggest clubs in the game are also looking for top-of-the-rotation help, and there will be no lack of bidders for a pitcher who won three Eiji Sawamura Awards (the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award).

Breslow could address his pitching needs in many ways. There are many free-agent starters on the market, and countless more that could be acquired through a trade. Yet signing Yamamoto would be an early indication that the Red Sox are not content to slowly build up a roster that has underperformed. It would indicate a willingness to make bold moves, and would energize a fanbase that has been on the outside looking into an American League East that has become one of the toughest divisions in the history of baseball.

Here at the Opryland, you can go days without stepping outside. There are dozens of shops, restaurants and even a riverboat under the dome of the resort. Yet looking outside – to the Far East – would be the perfect way for Breslow to begin his tenure at the helm of the Red Sox. It would certainly fire up a hot stove that has been far too cold for far too many winters of late.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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