Right-handed reliever Matt Barnes jumped from $605,000 to $1.6 million in his first year of arbitration. He was projected for $1.5 million.
Barnes enjoyed a breakout year in which he served as the primary setup man to closer Craig Kimbrel. Barnes was 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 14.0 K/9. The strikeout rate reaching an elite level is encouraging, although it came with an uptick in walks with a career-high 4.5 BB/9.
His postseason performance was even more impressive. Barnes allowed only one earned run to go along with nine strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings in the playoffs.
Uncertainty with Kimbrel hitting free agency could lead to an increased role for Barnes next season. If Kimbrel bolts for a bigger payday elsewhere and the Red Sox fail to sign a proven closer to replace him, Barnes would be a candidate to ascend to that role.
If Barnes does earn the closer gig and thrives in it, he’ll end up being a tremendous bargain. If he remains in his current setup role, Barnes is still a valuable piece of this bullpen.