Boston Red Sox Prospects: Options to take ball from Matt Barnes

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Matt Barnes #32 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees during a game at Yankee Stadium on June 5, 2021 in New York City. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees 7-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Matt Barnes #32 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees during a game at Yankee Stadium on June 5, 2021 in New York City. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees 7-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox have options in the minors to replace Matt Barnes

Matt Barnes has had some big moments with the Boston Red Sox. And by the All-Star break last season he was in the discussion of top relievers. Then came the implosion though. Barnes ended the year with decent overall numbers but it felt like a disappointment.

The hope was that the proper corrections would be made in the offseason. Honestly, he was not usable at points last year.

So far in 2022 it’s been bad. Barnes has a 7.20 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .250 BAA, and nearly as many walks (12) as strikeouts (13) and innings (15). Not usable.

You could argue that before his last outing (that saw him walk four batters in 1/3 of an inning) Barnes looked like he was correcting himself. Three straight outings of one shutout inning each. That was his first three-outing stretch without giving up a run all year though. In fact, he only has one other stretch of two-straight outings without giving up a run. Those were the first two appearances he made on the year.

Barnes has been with the Red Sox his entire career. He’s been in the Majors since 2014. And in that time there are plenty of great moments and stretches.

Overall though, it’s always been a roller coaster. His career 4.16 ERA and 1.35 WHIP tell you that. The issue is, for the last few months of last season and for all of this year, Barnes has been trending down heavy.

Yes, I get the contract. But at some point you have to decide that it’s worth it to just accept the loss and move on. Especially considering there are obvious options in the minor leagues.

And we’ll cut it back even. I’ll throw on some stipulations and we’ll still come out with a few options. We won’t talk about any potential starters. Josh Winckowski and Connor Seabold could help in the bullpen, but they’re starters at the moment. Brayan Bello just go to Triple-A and he should be a starter too.

So we’re just going strictly bullpen guys. And we’ll even go with just pitchers already in Triple-A, as they’re the most MLB-ready.

With all that narrowing things down, who are we left with? Eduard Bazardo, Darwinzon Hernandez, Zack Kelly, Frank German, Andrew Politi, and Durbin Feltman.

Bazardo has already pitched in the Majors, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what Boston has against him. Clearly they are hesitant about something. The right-handed pitcher made his MLB debut last season. In two outings, he tossed three shutout innings. Bazardo allowed just one hit and two walks, striking out three. An injury halted that momentum.

But for whatever reason the Red Sox had zero interest in seeing what he could do in Spring Training. And now he has a 2.45 ERA, .241 BAA, and 1.23 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings in Triple-A this year. It was a small sample size last year but he’s proven he can work in the Majors. Why not test him out again?

Hernandez is a weird one. He’s had a bad year in the minors. Tons of strikeouts but the walks are just as big of an issue as ever. Look no further than the fact that he has a 5.95 ERA despite an insanely low .152 BAA. That’s why he was sent down in the first place. But the wild effectiveness sort of worked in the Majors last year. Yes, he gave fans heart attacks, but Hernandez had a 3.38 ERA over 40 innings for Boston last season. He can’t do worse than Barnes right now.

And to Hernandez’s credit. He’s lowered the ERA nicely this month and only had one walk in three innings in his last appearance.

Kelly came to the Red Sox before last season as a solid minor league arm. But he’s quickly risen the ranks to a legitimate Major League bullpen option. He dominated Double-A last year before getting the mid-season jump to Triple-A where he was nearly just as good.

Now in 2022 in Triple-A, Kelly is proving last season was no fluke. He’s posted a 3.86 ERA, .217 BAA, and 1.53 WHIP in 16 1/3 innings. The walks have been an issue (12), but he’s racked up 21 strikeouts to stay out of too much trouble. And walks have never been a problem in the past. In fact, most of his walks have come in just a handful of outings this year. Kelly has tossed an inning and surrendered three walks, and another game where he threw 1 1/3 innings and allowed four walks. Outside of that, he’s been fine.

The Red Sox have gotten a pleasant surprise with Kelly so far. And now with 35 innings of work in Triple-A, it might be time to see what he can do in the Majors.

German and Politi both started the season in Double-A, but made quick work of it and got the call to Triple-A. Admittedly, neither has been in Worcester very long. So they probably aren’t going to be the first options. But a promotion for a bullpen arm to Triple-A this early in the season reeks of “we could use them in the Majors this year”.

German has one scoreless, hitless inning with one strikeout in Triple-A. Politi already has three innings under his belt, giving up just one run on two hits, striking out four. If both impress for a little bit, they could be on the radar.

The Feltman redemption tour was a beautiful thing last season. A good start to the year in Double-A led to the righty getting promoted to Triple-A. There he went from having a very good year to having a fantastic one.

2022 has been different though. Feltman is getting hit around a lot. 6.75 ERA, .304 BAA, and 1.44 WHIP in 16 innings. The only major positive is that he has 18 strikeouts compared to just two walks. It really feels like one-or-two adjustments and he could get back on track though. If that happens and he cleans it up for a month, he could be an option.

Are any of these guys guaranteed to be saviors in the Majors? Absolutely not. But Barnes has been completely unusable for the Red Sox. A liability out of the bullpen since August of last season. They didn’t even want to use him in the playoffs.

I love Barnes and he’s brought a lot of great memories for Boston fans. That includes being part of a World Series championship. But you can’t keep him on the roster much longer if he isn’t going to help. At least throw in a phantom IL and give one of these guys a showcase to see if the time has come. Do something though, because it hurts to watch.

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