It’s open season – or rather, offseason – on struggling bullpen arms in Boston.
Hours after trading Josh Taylor to the Royals, the Red Sox have designated Matt Barnes for assignment.
First reported by Chris Henrique, the move corresponds with the team’s official announcement of the Adam Duvall signing.
The Sox have prioritized bullpen upgrades all winter. They signed Joely Rodriguez, Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen to short-term deals and DFA’ed and traded Darwinzon Hernandez. But cutting ties with Barnes comes as a biggest surprise, in part because the Sox still have to pay him $7.5 million this year. That he was on the chopping block before pitchers like Ryan Brasier, Wyatt Mills and Kaleb Ort is also unexpected.
The move cements a hard fall from grace for Barnes. It’s been less than two years since the Sox signed him to a two-year extension with a club option for a third year, the week after he was named to his first All-Star Game.
Following his extension, Barnes struggled in the second half of the season and missed time on the COVID-19 injured list. After posting a 2.61 ERA and 0.895 WHIP across 38 appearances in the first half, he compiled a 6.48 ERA and 1.620 WHIP over 22 appearances in the second.
Injuries prevented the 32-year-old righty from bouncing back in early 2022. His cumulative 4.31 ERA (44 appearances) belies his early season struggles and two months on the injured list, but it also masks his late-season success; he posted a 1.59 ERA over his final 24 appearances.
Barnes, a Connecticut native, debuted with the Sox in 2014, and compiled a 4.07 ERA across 429 regular-season appearances, including 134 games finished and 47 saves. He was dominant on the ’16 and ’18 postseason teams, posting a 0.87 ERA over 10 1/3 innings, but in ’21, his late-season struggles prompted the Sox to leave him off the ALDS and ALCS rosters. He was later added to the postseason roster when Garrett Richards got injured.
With more than three years of service time, Barnes is able to refuse outright assignment to the minor leagues. If the Sox are unable to trade him, he’ll become a free agent in seven days.
For those keeping score at home, this roster move means Brasier, Rafael Devers and Chris Sale are now the only remaining members of the ’18 championship team.