Matt Barnes must perform to secure his Red Sox future
The Red Sox bullpen has been a topic of discussion for as long as I can remember. There have always been those few select arms that were always reliable while some others could be Jekyll or Hyde depending on the night. Matt Barnes is the definition of unpredictable as we never quite know what we’re going to get from the righty. And in 2022, he needs to perform or he may as well pack his bags.
It may seem odd that I’m insinuating that Barnes could be moved in 2022 but is it really that far-fetched? We know Chaim Bloom has zero issues with moving players if it means he can get a return to better the club. And as we head into a new season, his role is as unclear as ever.
It also doesn’t matter if said traded player is a fan favorite or not, Chaim runs the Red Sox like a business and he’s in the right for doing so. Matty B very well could find himself on the chopping block this summer, especially if things don’t start very well for the righty.
Barnes was the best reliever in the game not named Craig Kimbrel for the first half of 2021 but it didn’t take long after the All-Star break for him to turn back into a pumpkin. His season really was a tale of two pitchers, again, Jekyll and Hyde.
He attacked during the first half of the year with his fastball to follow it up with his nasty curve. Long gone seemed the days of him playing with the batter and losing that fight. Oh boy, we were wrong. Barnes would curiously ditch that successful gameplan and go back to what he was more known for and went from a lockdown closer to losing his spot in the bullpen in the blink of an eye.
For the first half of 2021, he posted a disgusting 2.61 ERA through 38 innings of work while holding the opposition to a .174/.238/.280 line. Then the clock struck midnight and we saw more of the Backpacks from years past where he put in just 16.2 innings with a 6.48 ERA. Opposing hitters also posted a .269/.367/.507 slash.
Again, Barnes was given an extension halfway through last year but if he can’t deliver as July 31st approaches, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to be moved by the halfway point of this year. Bloom is about building this Red Sox team to win and he has shown that he will get rid of guys that aren’t cutting it as well as those that have expiring contracts. Boston very well could have several in each column in 2022.
I have been harsh on Matty Backpacks over the years but he really changed my mind in 2021, and I think that’s the guy that he can be. But he absolutely needs to be that first-half arm in 2022 if he wants to continue pitching in Boston.
If he shows up and delivers more of what he did as the Red Sox were fighting toward the end of the season then I think it may be time to cut bait. He won me over last year, but as I’ve said, Chaim will not flinch at moving a player to better the current team.
In a perfect world, Matt Barnes will spend his entire career with the Red Sox but in order for that to become a reality, he needs to find himself. I truly feel that the real Barnes is what we saw before the All-Star break and much less than what we saw after. He was given a defined role in the organization and he thrived.
Once the waters got a bit muddy he started to unravel. I don’t think he can be a closer in today’s MLB but he can be one hell of a setup man. Alex Cora needs to be as clear as humanly possible with him whenever spring training happens, if it ever does, and let him know what his job will be in 2022. He also needs to let Barnes know what his plan of attack needs to be. If Matty B is once again left to float untethered this season, he won’t be a member of the Red Sox for much longer.