Boston Red Sox

If there’s indeed a plan in place to pull the Red Sox from the basement of the American League East, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom makes it awfully hard to figure out just exactly what it entails.

And moves like the one Bloom & Co. made Tuesday evening doesn’t help crystalize much of anything.

In an offseason that’s been headlined by the Red Sox trying to beef up what was a downright dreadful bullpen in 2022, the Red Sox announced that outfielder Adam Duvall‘s addition to the 40-man roster has come at the expense of reliever Matt Barnes, who was designated for assignment by the club.

  • Jun 29, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) is congratulated by catcher Christian Vazquez (7) after defeating the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 29, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) is congratulated by catcher Christian Vazquez (7) after defeating the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

  • A veteran of nine MLB seasons (all with the Red Sox), the 32-year-old Barnes was coming off a 2022 campaign that featured an 0-4 record with a 4.31 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 39.2 innings of work.

    It was a definite step back from the 2021 All-Star campaign Barnes put up for the Sox in 2021, sure, but Barnes’ 2022 was defined more by its finish than its start.

    Or at least it should have been.

    While the 6-foot-4 Barnes entered the 2022 All-Star break with a disastrous 15 earned runs and 7.94 ERA in just 17 innings of work, Barnes’ post All-Star break run featured just four earned runs and a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 innings of work over 24 appearances. That 1.59 ERA was tops among all full-time relievers for the Red Sox over the second half of the season, with John Schreiber and his 2.87 ERA over his 30 second-half appearances the next-best figure in the Boston pen.

    Expanding it outside of Boston, Barnes’ 1.59 ERA in the second half ranked as the 22nd-best mark among 168 relievers with at least 20 innings pitched over the second half of the season.

    With a .226 opponent batting average against, Barnes also ranked third in batting average against among second-half relievers for the Red Sox still with the organization, trailing only Garrett Whitlock (.214) and Tanner Houck (.150). And last we knew, the Red Sox planned on putting both Houck and Whitlock in the starting rotation in 2023.

  • Apr 13, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) pitches during the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 13, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) pitches during the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

  • It also makes even less sense when you think about Boston’s other bullpen arms who have somehow avoided the dreaded ‘DFA’ title for the entire offseason. Namely Ryan Brasier and Kaleb Ort.

    One of 66 relievers to throw at least 60 innings of the bullpen last year while making zero starts, the 35-year-old Brasier ranked dead last in ERA (5.78), last in earned runs allowed (40), and fourth-worst in hits allowed (68). Brasier’s nine home runs allowed was also tied for the eighth-most among that group of 66.

    There’s been an element of Brasier being merely ‘unlucky’ in 2022 (and there’s analytics to back up that claim), but if the choice was between Brasier and Barnes, it’s still hard to see how Brasier gets the nod if the goal is to build the best ‘pen.

    Ort, meanwhile, was an unplayable disaster in 2022, and was actually one of just eight MLB relievers to make at least 25 appearances and have an opponent batting average against of over .300.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 26: Ryan Brasier #70 of the Boston Red Sox is relieved during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on August 26, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 26: Ryan Brasier #70 of the Boston Red Sox is relieved during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on August 26, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • It’s just hard to see how Barnes, who was set to make $8.375 million in 2023 (and with a club option for 2024), didn’t fit into the plans for the 2023 Red Sox. Especially when factoring in the uncertainty of new faces such as Chris Martin, Joely Rodriguez, and Kenley Jansen, all of whom are coming over from the National League.

    There’s an awful lot of uncertainty in that bullpen, and the finish that Barnes had to his 2022, especially with an uptick in his velocity there to close out the year, should’ve been enough to keep him on the table as a reliable option for Alex Cora.

    But this has weirdly been Bloom’s M.O. at various points this offseason, and it’s never failed to be a source of frustration.

    Bloom and the Sox opened the offseason by saying that they were going to be aggressive when it came to adding front of the rotation starting pitchers. They instead let Nathan Eovaldi walk to Texas, replaced him with Corey Kluber, and are hoping for clean bills of health for the chronically injured Chris Sale and James Paxton.

    They also decided that they didn’t want to ‘block’ Triston Casas after just 27 MLB games, and designated veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer for assignment. Casas was not given a clean bill of health when the Red Sox made that move, and there’s an awful lot of hope riding on him being MLB-ready in 2023. If he’s not ready for primetime, it’ll be more of Bobby Dalbec and the Red Sox throwing crap at the wall at first base.

    Oh, and the Red Sox decided to dick around for almost a full calendar when it came to the Xander Bogaerts extension talks, watched him hit the open market (where things always get stupid in terms of years and dollars), and are now taking a chance on an oft-injured replacement thanks to a significant injury to Trevor Story.

    At least the town hall editors should stay busy.