This took the baseball world by surprise earlier this week, when the Boston Red Sox decided to DFA right-handed reliever Matt Barnes. The 32-year-old was an All-Star in 2021, but after some injuries and decline in performance since his first All-Star honor, Barnes is now available for the other 29 ball clubs in MLB.
Barnes has spent his entire pro career in the Red Sox organization, selected 19th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft. The right-hander was a top-100 prospect in 2013 and in Sept. 2014 he got his first cup of coffee in the majors, making five appearances at the end of the season. Barnes struggled in his first full run with the Red Sox, posting a 5.44 ERA in 43 innings during the 2015 season and then improved lowering his ERA to 4.05 in 66.2 innings the following year.
From 2017-21, Barnes tossed 273.1 innings and recorded a 3.82 ERA. Barnes was named an All-Star in 2021, after saving 19 games for Boston in the first half. However, it’s been downhill for Barnes ever since. He eventually lost the closer’s role with the Red Sox in 2021, and he wasn’t added to the team’s original roster in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays or in the ALCS against the Houston Astros.
In 2022, Barnes had an ERA north of 7 through the month of May and he was then placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation. The right-hander returned in early August and to his credit Barnes was great to end the season. In his final 24 appearances in 2022, Barnes had a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 innings, striking out 20 and walking nine after coming back from injury.
As far as his contract, Barnes signed a two-year, $18.75 million deal with the Red Sox for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, that also includes a club option for 2024. Because he’s been DFA’d, the Red Sox could try and work out a trade, but it is far more likely that Barnes will clear waivers and will then be free to sign with any other team. And that’s what makes him a solid option for either the Cubs or White Sox.
Barnes could be signed for the league minimum by either Chicago team, while the Red Sox continue pay the rest of his 2023 salary. Although Barnes has had his struggles for the past year and a half, he isn’t that far removed from being an All-Star closer and like I noted above, he came back strong to finish the 2022 season.
The White Sox are going to be without Liam Hendriks, who is undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Barnes could be a cheap alternative for their bullpen and give first-time manager Pedro Grifol another option to fill in as the closer.
Meanwhile, the Cubs could also use more depth in their bullpen and as of now they don’t have a reliever with a long track record of being a closer other than Brad Boxberger. Maybe more importantly, signing Barnes for the league minimum would also give Jed Hoyer room to still add a left-handed reliever without spending a good chunk of money.
We’ll be talking about Barnes and plenty more Wednesday night on the Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast. Join us live on YouTube at 8 p.m. CST.