The Red Sox should hold onto Matt Barnes
Coming off a 71-91 season and last place finish in the AL East, the Red Sox should be in the heart of trade rumors throughout the offseason. With a patchwork pitching rotation and myriad prospects to spare, the Red Sox have the motive and the pieces to swing a big trade for an ace to lead their rotation this year. There are a handful of prospects that fans have deemed untouchable for trades– Blake Swihart and Henry Owens, to name a couple, plus young stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts— but one more name should be added to that list and it’s Matt Barnes.
Barnes, a first-round draft pick in 2011 who pitched in the Futures Game as a 22 year old in 2012, is no longer at the peak of his prospect status. A disappointing 2013 season, which saw him post a 4.33 ERA in his debut season for Double-A Portland, and horrendous first half of this season has significantly lowered his stock.
However, he raised that stock back a little ways with a phenomenal second half, bringing his ERA from a 5.06 mark at the Triple-A All-Star break down to 3.95 on the season, and ended the season with a cup of coffee for the Red Sox. Barnes made 5 appearances out of the bullpen and wasn’t excellent, allowing 4 earned runs on 11 hits in 9 innings, but he showed a combination of size (6’4″, 200 pounds), stuff (Barnes throws a mid-90’s fastball with heavy sink and a plus curve) and command (he walked just 2 batters and struck out 8) that is unique among Red Sox prospects not named Henry Owens.
At this point, it’s relatively safe to call the group of Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo as “flyer” prospects. Sure, one or two of them may work out and it’s worth taking a flyer on them, but they’re by no means sure things.
On the other hand, Barnes’ status as a reliable future starting pitcher has never really been in doubt. Even when he was struggling in 2013 and the first half of 2014, his peripherals were relatively solid; in 2013, he had an 11.25 K/9 and 2.93 K/BB and, this season, his strikeouts fell to 7.26 K/9 but his ratio was still solid at 2.24. He has never displayed the control problems of the three afore-mentioned prospects and, unlike De La Rosa and Ranaudo, he has three solid pitches between his fastball, change, and curve.
While he doesn’t have the ceiling of Webster or De La Rosa, he is considerably more of a sure thing than either one. That has value in and of itself even if he only develops into a back-end starter. That high floor and history of solid performances indicate that the Red Sox would be wise to hold onto him this offseason.