Three Red Sox decisions to make on pitches being non-tendered
MLBTR has the latest list of players who may be non-tendered and three Boston Red Sox pitchers have surfaced on the list with their possible projected arbitration salaries. Boston’s 40-man roster is filled and all three are sequestered on it for the time being. The Red Sox could simply trade the player, make an offer, or tell them to look elsewhere.
Since pitching is so significant, especially after the disappointing staff performance of 2020, the status of all three could have reverberations for the mound configuration for 2021. Looking at all three, I can only quote that noted social scientist Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) who would comment on a relationship problem “Are you better off without him (her) or with him (her)?” Let’s look at all three.
The most notable is right-hander Matt Barnes, a former first-round draft pick (2011) who has migrated through the Red Sox system before finally establishing himself as a reliever. Barnes is projected to receive $4.1 MM via the arbitration process and that is a significant outlay for a pitcher who posted a dismal -0.1 fWAR in 2020.
Defining Barnes, the word association I use is “enigmatic.” Barnes apparently has the proverbial “tools” to succeed, but the performance is – another choice word – ‘inconsistent.” In 2019 and 2020, Barnes was given his shot at exclusivity by becoming the closer. A choice opportunity as a fast track to elevated financial independence. Barnes responded with 13 saves and an unfortunate 12 blown saves.
Barnes throws hard – consistently in the high 90s – and possesses a knee-buckling curveball. When both those primary pitches are functioning, Barnes is downright frightening, but, alas they are more like oil and water instead of peanut butter and jelly. Barnes simply walks too many (5.5 BB/9 in 2020) and gives up the long ball with regrettable regularity.
At 30-years-old, what you see is apparently what you get with Barnes. The smart move would simply move forward in 2021 without Barnes – at least for me, it is the smart move. Best for Chaim Bloom to let Barnes test the market and I have an eerie feeling Barnes will be back in Boston on the cheap.
Next up on the list is Ryan Brasier, a 33-year-old right-hander with a tag of now being a lukewarm established pitcher. Brasier took a circuitous route to Boston that included a season in Japan. Brasier could best be described as roster filler when he put his signature on a Red Sox contract, but the Red Sox caught a break.
In 2018, Brasier became a noted figure in the Red Sox quest that eventually resulted in a dismissal of the Dodgers in the World Series. Brasier was outstanding appearing in 34 games with increasing high leverage opportunities. The final stats were impressive with a 1.60 ERA/2.83 FIP and a 1.9 BB/9.
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Then came 2019. Brasier was a disaster and spent some time in Pawtucket (AAA) to get his groove back. The only groove was a 1.5 HR/9 and the season was a lost cause for both Brasier and the Red Sox. The 2020 season seemed to be on a similar track until Brasier’s fastball – consistently high 90s – and slider returned to form. In his short MLB career, Brasier has shown swing and miss stuff (15.3 SwStr%) with a 10.8 K/9 in 2020. A statistical note is Brasier’s home and road average is both .223.
From my view, Brasier is a keeper since he did post a 0.5 fWAR and is projected for baseball chump change at $1.0 MM. Brasier is an experienced veteran and staff need that especially those veterans who have both succeeded and suffered.
Right-hander Austin Brice is now 28-years-old and has hung around MLB long enough to get into arbitration – an arbitration that is expected to yield Brice a payout of $700,000 and a slight bump above minimum salary. Brice’s 5.95 ERA/4.92 FIP is not encouraging until you see five earned runs allowed in 0.2 innings in one game that skewers it.
Brice has two basic pitches – a mid-90s fastball and a slider that Brice tosses with about 10v less. In 2020 Brice had a 5.9 BB/9 and an 11.4 K/9 over 19.2 innings. The final tally was a -0.1 fWAR. My assumption is this is a low-value risk for a pitcher with mixed results in 127 MLB games for three teams.