Marlins reliever Matt Barnes will undergo femoral acetabular impingement surgery on his left hip at the end of the month, Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald relays (on Twitter). He won’t be cleared to begin running or throwing for three months, so his season is almost certainly over.
The surgery also quite likely puts an end to Barnes’ tenure with Miami. Acquired in a trade that sent lefty Richard Bleier to the Red Sox, the former Boston closer was seen as a buy-low candidate by a Marlins club looking for high-leverage arms in the offseason. Barnes was an All-Star in 2021 and looked headed for a significant payday in free agency when he instead signed a two-year extension to remain in Boston. Things almost immediately went south after he put pen to paper on that $18.75MM deal. In the season’s final six weeks, he was rocked for a dozen runs in just 11 2/3 innings.
The Sox hoped Barnes would bounce back the following season, but things didn’t play out that way. A shoulder injury cost Barnes more than two months of the season, and while his 4.31 ERA when healthy was at least respectable, it’s a far cry from what the Sox hoped for when signing him to that two-year pact. Beyond that, Barnes’ 95.2 mph average fastball and 19.3% strikeout rate were both career-lows — a far cry from the 97 mph he averaged at his peak and the 37.8% strikeout rate he posted in 2021.
In Miami, Barnes pitched 21 1/3 but was tagged for a 5.48 ERA in that time. This year’s 93.6 mph average fastball is a career-low by a wide margin of 1.6 mph. His 7.7% swinging-strike rate is one of the lowest marks among relievers and about half the 14.9% he recorded at his best. The revelation of an injury hardly came as a major surprise given those stark declines, and it’s fair to wonder whether Barnes was ever pitching at 100% this season or whether he was simply trying to gut through the injury.
There’s an $8MM club option for the 2024 season on Barnes’ contract, and although the $2.25MM buyout effectively makes it a net $5.75MM decision, it’s still extremely unlikely the Marlins would pick that third year up. Given the extent of Barnes’ struggles in recent years and now the onset of a notable surgery, he’ll likely be bought out and head to free agency, where he’ll either be a candidate for a low-cost, incentive-laden one-year contract or perhaps even a minor league deal. The status of his recovery will play a large role in determining his earning power, and it obviously can’t be known at this time precisely how it’ll all play out.