Red Sox trade right-handed reliever Matt Barnes to the Marlins, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. left-handed reliever Richard Bléier heads to Boston in return, according to Craig Mish of SportsGrid.
Miami will also receive cash rewards in addition to this player-for-player exchange, for Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. mish to this sum to approximately $1 million, to offset part of the $7.5 million salary Barnes owes in 2023 and the $2.5 million buyout on his $8 million club option for 2024. Bleier owes 3 .5 million this season and carries a club option of $3.75 million (or $250K buyout) for 2024. Assuming this is the final iteration of the deal, Miami takes a just over $5 million in payroll and part ways with veteran Bleier in an attempt to get Barnes back on track in 2023.
Barnes, 32, was slated for assignment by the Red Sox last week after signing a one-year, $7million deal with the outfielder Adam Duval. He’s been Boston’s closest principal in 2021, making a team-leading 24 saves. The 2021 campaign, however, was something of a two-season tale for Barnes. He dominated at a 2.25 ERA and 42% strikeout rate through Aug. 4. Barnes was impressive enough that the Sox signed him to a two-year, $18.75 million extension in early July.
In the final two months of the 2022 season, however, Barnes not only struggled, but crumbled catastrophically. He pitched just 10 2/3 innings starting Aug. 5, driving in a dozen runs on 17 hits and nine walks with 16 strikeouts along the way. It was a calamitous end to what began as one of the best seasons of any Major League reliever.
Barnes had hoped to right the ship in 2022, but quickly lost the nearer job at the start of the year when he fell to a 7.94 MPM through the end of May. The right-hander was always going to be much lower among the team’s high leverage considerations in 2023, following the December additions of Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin – a pair of moves that were largely necessitated by Barnes’ struggles.
Still, it’s worth pointing out that Barnes ended on a high note that probably intrigued Miami and other clubs. He was on the disabled list from early June to early August due to shoulder inflammation, and when he returned he looked much more like the Barnes of old. Beginning Aug. 4 — the same time he started struggling a year prior — Barnes threw 22 2/3 innings for 1.59 ERA ball and caught four saves. His 21.1% strikeout rate was half that of his dominant 2021 form, but it was still an encouraging note on which to end the season.
Barnes could possibly get another chance to carve out backup opportunities in Miami, though. Dylan Florio is the current favorite projected for this concert. Floro worked to a 3.02 ERA in 53 2/3 innings with the Marlins in 2022, and he managed to convert 25 save attempts over the past two years. Barnes had just eight saves in 2022 and finished with a 4.31 ERA in 39 2/3 frames. He’ll add a bit more batting potential to a team that ranked 13th among MLB clubs with a 24% strikeout rate from its relief corps in 2022, although the downside is obvious.
Bleier, meanwhile, can fill the Sox’s need to help left-handed relievers, even as he enters his 36-year-old season. The veteran southpaw has recorded a 3.09 ERA in 125 1/3 innings since the start of 2020, and he’s held left-handed batters to a .225/.260/.313 slash line since he reached the major leagues with the Yankees in 2016. Boston traded left-hander Josh Taylor to the Royals in exchange for Adalberto Mondesiveteran sent Jake Diekman (signed until 2023) to the White Sox at last year’s trade deadline and lost Darwinzon Hernandez to the Orioles via waivers earlier this offseason — all of which had thinned the team’s left-handed depth in the bullpen.
They will get quality left-handed sleeves from Bleier, although despite his strong track record there are a few red flags to note. The soft throw southpaw has never missed many bats, but last year’s 14.4% strikeout rate was his lowest since 2019. Bleier has in the past made up for his lack of puffs with huge ground ball rates. However, while last year’s mark of 52.5% was solid compared to the league average, it was a far cry from the career mark of 63.5% he had carried until the season. 2022. Bleier has also regularly avoided hard contacts, but last year’s 89.6 mph exit speed and 40.8% hard hit rate were his worst results since the aforementioned debut in 2016.
The Sox will lose more than $5 million in payroll with the trade and will also see their luxury tax register reduced by approximately $4.625 million, as they will lose $9.375 million from Barnes and be on the hook for the AAV remaining on Barnes. deal ($3.75 million) plus the $1 million they’re sending to Miami as part of the trade. The trade will give them an average reliever with a solid overall record and particularly encouraging numbers against other southpaws – although Bleier presents potential areas of concern. That it can be controlled through 2024 via this affordable $3.75 million option is icing on the cake.
As for the Marlins, they will add more late-inning advantage to their bullpen with this trade. The added luxury tax implications are not a factor for a Marlins club that is far – and has never come close – to the luxury tax line. Fans may bristle shipping the reliever with better box-level numbers for what amounts to a Barnes recovery draft, but the Fishes are willing to bet on the younger, tougher Barnes in hopes of unlock a high-leverage reliever that can be affordably controlled throughout the 2024 season via this $8 million option. And, if Barnes is indeed able to get back into shape, he’ll give Miami an interesting arm to market this summer if they’re out of playoff contention for good.