If Bryce Brentz was a single guy, perhaps he would have taken a leap of faith and signed with another pro baseball organization, knowing he wouldn't have to worry about anyone except himself.
But the outfielder, who earlier this week celebrated his 30th birthday, knows that it's not just about him. Considerations must be made to include wife Anne Marie and daughter Everlee, who turns one next month. His venture is also their venture. They are coming along for the ride, hence the importance of latching on with a ballclub that would not only provide Brentz with a shot to get back to the majors but also provide the smoothest avenue for Anne Marie and Everlee to comfortably function.
"Having a family adds a lot more to the equation," said Brentz.
On many levels, the decision Brentz made to rejoin the Boston Red Sox on a one-year minor-league deal, where one of the stipulations includes an invitation to spring training, makes perfect sense. From the standpoint of a ballplayer and a husband/father, there are so many degrees of familiarity. With eight years of BoSox service time under his belt and six of those campaigns featuring him wearing a PawSox uniform, Brentz will be able to forgo the formal introductions when he arrives at sp ring training next month.
"I'm in a place where it'll provide the easiest transition for my family. It's a place we'll be comfortable with because we know the routine," said Brentz.
Rumors of a Brentz/Red Sox reunion first surfaced the weekend before Christmas. The confirmation email appeared in his inbox this past Friday. As a first-time free agent, he heard from teams from the lower 48 as well as those based in Asia.
"You don't want to get to January and wonder what's going on," said Brentz when reached shortly after all the particulars in his Red Sox pact were ironed out. "You've got to have a boundary, but it wasn't like we were desperate. To have something come together before the new year is awesome. Now we have a better mindset because we know where we're heading."
Brentz was Red Sox property when last year's spring training got underway. Boston added him to the 40-man roster after a power-packed 2017 season with the PawSox that featured an International League-best 31 home runs. When the Sox needed space on the roster after signing J.D. Martinez, Brentz was deemed expendable.
"He's pretty good," said Brentz about Martinez.
The 2018 season saw Brentz experience baseball life outside the Red Sox cocoon. Boston traded him to Pittsburgh shortly after the Martinez signing but the Pirates released him as spring training drew to a close. He was picked up by the New York Mets and assigned to the Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. By early May, he had gone deep seven times. That's when he broke his foot and missed nearly three months. He returned to the Las Vegas lineup in August before ending the season with 15 home runs in 193 at-bats.
"We had a path but the injury set a lot of things back," said Brentz. "It wasn't close to a full body of work."
As he waited to see what the next step would entail, Brentz watched with great interest as the Sox bulldozed their way to a 108-win regular season and a World Series title. He and Anne Marie had become close with Jackie Bradley Jr. and his wife Erin, hence the rooting component was an easy find.
"Just the season they had and the full body of work they put together and how they went about it, you couldn't do anything better than what they did. It was so much fun to watch," said Brentz.
As he began kicking the tires in free agency, Brentz admitted, "Honestly, I didn't think I would be back in Boston/Pawtucket. I'm lucky those relationships … maybe they had something to do with all this happening."
What helped to sweeten the pot was Boston's willingness to put opt-out language into Brentz's deal. If a better opportunity comes along, the team won't stand in the player's way.
"I know looking out for the team is the first priority and I get that. As a player and a father, I'm also thinking about my family. The Red Sox were able to give me a situation where whatever comes along would be best for me. That meant a lot. I can't say enough about that," said Brentz. "Some of teams wouldn't put language in a contract where both parties benefit."
The Triple-A piece also factoring into the final call. Brentz played for new PawSox manager Billy McMillon in 2011 when McMillon guided Class A Greenville. The chance to once again work with Pawtucket hitting coach Rich Gedman, who helped Brentz refine his toe-tap approach that paved the way for his 2017 long-ball barrage, was also taken under advisement when determining a spot in 2019.
"Knowing Geddy, I can walk in there, start talking, and he'll know where I'm coming from. Someplace else, it could take time to get the language down," said Brentz, living proof that a door really never truly closes.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.