Red Sox righty Matt Barnes will be a free agent after the 2021 season, but the 30-year-old tells Alex Speier of the Boston Globe that he hopes to spend his entire career in Boston. To that end, Barnes revealed that he and the organization had discussed a multi-year deal that would have extended his time with the Red Sox “beyond next year.”
There’s no indication to this point that the two sides plan to resume talks, although Barnes makes clear that he’s plenty open to the possibility. All 30 big league clubs were impacted by the lack of gate revenue in 2020, and all are still waiting to ascertain just what the 2021 season will look like in terms of fan attendance, length of season and other factors.
Barnes saw his strikeout and walk rates both trend in the wrong direction in 2020, although as Speier points out, he finished the season with a strong showing in September. Barnes’ track record on the whole in Boston is quite good, and the past four seasons in particular have seen him assume a prominent role in the team’s relief corps. Dating back to 2017, Barnes owns a 3.83 ERA and a 3.30 FIP, having averaged 13.2 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 and 0.99 HR/9 with a 49.1 percent ground-ball rate. From 2018-19, only four of the 108 qualified relievers in MLB struck out a greater percentage of batters faced than Barnes: Josh Hader, Edwin Diaz, Aroldis Chapman and Kirby Yates.
Barnes and the Red Sox agreed to a $4.5MM salary for the upcoming season earlier this week, so his earnings are locked in barring the restructuring of that salary as part of a longer-term deal. Any such contract talks aren’t likely to happen in the near future, however. Extensions are most commonly negotiated during Spring Training even under normal circumstances — hence last spring’s talks referenced by Barnes — and that figures to be more true than ever as teams wait to gather information that will determine their revenue streams in 2021.
If Barnes does eventually reach the market next winter, he’ll join what looks to be a rather weak class of free-agent relievers. Assuming a solid season in 2021, Barnes could make a case for himself as one of the more appealing names on the market.