The Boston Red Sox made a pair of notable transactions on Tuesday. First, they obtained veteran infielder Adalberto Mondesi in a trade with the Kansas City Royals that also included reliever Josh Taylor. Next, the Red Sox designated former All-Star reliever Matt Barnes for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-player roster for recent free-agent signing outfielder Adam Duvall.
We’ve covered the Mondesi acquisition elsewhere, so let’s focus on the other part of the Red Sox’s transaction log entry — specifically the Barnes part.
Barnes, 32, is coming off the second-worst season of his career, as judged by ERA+. Indeed, in 44 appearances last year, he compiled a 4.31 ERA (98 ERA+) and a 1.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s fair to write that he did not build upon a 2021 campaign that saw him make his first (and only) All-Star Game, and it’s fair to write that he deviated from his established norms (to date, he has a 112 ERA+ in more than 400 big-league outings).
Still, the Red Sox’s decision to shed Barnes is surprising for a few reasons, including his track record and his contract. Boston extended Barnes during the summer of 2021, inking him to a two-year pact that began last season and that guaranteed him close to $19 million. He’s still owed $7.5 million in 2023, as well as a $2.25 million buyout on a team option for the 2024 season. In other words, the Red Sox will pay him close to $10 million to not pitch for them if they’re unable to find a trade partner over the coming week.
There’s also the matter of the Red Sox opting to part with Barnes instead of some other low-ranking member of their 40-player roster. Evidently the Red Sox viewed Barnes as being a less desirable quantity than Kaleb Ort, Ryan Brasier, and Zack Kelly, among others. Whether or not that proves to be the right call is to be determined, but give top Red Sox decisionmaker Chaim Bloom this much: he clearly didn’t let Barnes’ salary make the decision for him.