Teams must request approval from the commissioner’s office to replace injured players on a playoff roster. Injury removal renders that player ineligible both for the remainder of the current series and the next series, should the team advance. Were the Red Sox to erase their 1-0 deficit and take down the Rays, Richards would not be eligible to return until the World Series.
While Richards’ season-long numbers are underwhelming, they’re also a bit misleading. The 33-year-old began the season as a member of the rotation but struggled, leading to his transfer to a bullpen role in mid-August. Since moving into shorter stints, Richards has been far better than he was a starter, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored. Over 26 1/3 frames of relief to close out the regular season, he pitched to a 3.42 ERA/2.90 FIP.
Richards’ strikeout (24.8%) and walk (10.6%) rates were right around the league average, but he’s racked up grounders on nearly half the balls in play against him. He garnered increased trust of manager Alex Cora along the way, seeing increasingly higher-leverage work as the season progressed. His contract contains a $10MM club option (or a $1.5MM buyout) for the 2022 season.
Barnes’ year has gone in the opposite direction. The 31-year-old was among the game’s best relievers through the season’s first couple months, earning an All-Star nod and a two-year, $18.75MM contract extension in the process. He’s had a stunningly poor second half, posting a 6.48 ERA over 16 2/3 frames since the Break. He’s still fanned a solid 26.6% of opposing hitters in that time, but Barnes’ walk and home run rates have spiked dramatically over the past couple months. Those recent struggles led the Red Sox to leave him off the initial Division Series roster, but he’ll get another opportunity to step up after Richards’ injury.