Former close Matt Barnes has been assigned the task as the Red Sox roster continues to rotate

Matt Barnes was supposed to be part of the solution. Not only under the former leadership of the Red Sox — who drafted, developed, and won a World Series with him — but even under current baseball catcher Chaim Blum, who just 18 months ago signed Barnes to a two-year extension that included a club option for a third season. Barnes wasn’t necessarily supposed to last another decade, but he was at least supposed to keep working after Tuesday night.

Instead, Barnes was set for assignment on Tuesday, all but slamming the door on an 11-year stint with the organization that drafted him in 2011 and developed him into one of the best relief pitchers in the game before a sudden and drastic fall from the lead.

“The conversation itself was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had,” Bloom said.

Beyond that, Bloom didn’t say much about Barnes’ decision on a conference call Tuesday, saying he wanted to let the process run through before getting into the details of the team’s decision. The Red Sox still have a week to potentially trade Barnes before he needs to be relieved, something that will certainly save him due to his paycheck. If he does, Barnes could turn down an outright waiver to the minor leagues and become a free agent, with the Red Sox still on the hook for his $7.5 million salary and $2.25 million buyout.

“More than anything, this is just a post that shows where we are in the off-season and with our 40-man roster,” Bloom said. “There are no easy decisions, and as you know, no matter their recent accomplishments, no matter what they have under their belts in their careers, everyone on our 40-man roster is truly valuable. There is no one we can remove now without losing them.”

In recent weeks, the Red Sox have located — and lost — standout players including Eric Hosmer, Jeter Downs, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Connor Seabold, but Barnes has been the most shocking of the cuts. He was tasked with making room for freshman center fielder Adam Duvall, who was added to the roster just hours after the Red Sox traded another familiar reliever, lefty Josh Taylor, for shortstop defenseman Adalberto Mondesi and a player to be named later.

With these two moves, the Red Sox have been dramatically transformed in predictable, somewhat surprising, and completely unexpected ways.

Duvall, 34, is expected to become the team’s starting quarterback, a position he’s played well in a relatively limited sample size. The Red Sox especially desired a right-handed power bat, an item they lost when Trevor Storey had elbow surgery earlier this month.

Mondesi, 27, will feature prominently at shortstop. He is a switch hitter with great speed and defense, and at times a dangerous bat. Not so long ago, he was among the most promising young players in the sport, but injuries have limited him to just 109 games over the past three years, and he’s still recovering from a knee injury that will likely keep him off the Red Sox’ early-season roster. Even when he’s active, Bloom said, workload concerns will likely limit Mondisi to part-time work, or at least require him to take regular time off.

“It doesn’t change anything about where we’re going and the (short) opportunity for Kiki (Hernandez),” said Bloom. “When Adalberto comes back, we know given his track record, (so) I don’t think we want to put too much on him. He’ll be part of the mix. We’ll bring him along the right way. We’ll take care of him, and being part of the mix will make it easier to take care of everyone.” .

The Red Sox still appear to have at least one open spot on the bench.

“(Mondesi) doesn’t really cut off any options for us if the right move is there,” Blum said.

However, bullpen options dwindled. It was widely expected that Barnes and Taylor would make Opening Day, perhaps in relatively prominent mid-season roles. The free agent market still has some notable relievers, though, especially from the left side, and Bloom said it’s possible the team could sign one to flesh out the current group.

“There is definitely more than one lane at this point,” he said.

Of course, signing another player just means DFA for someone else, and the fact that Barnes was cut indicates the Red Sox don’t have any more easy cuts. In cutting Barnes, they chose to keep lesser known relievers like Ryan Brasier, Kaleb Ort and Wyatt Mills. Bloom cited upside, options, years of control, and fundamental data as a reason to keep those under threat ahead of Barnes.

“Sometimes there are (situations) where the easy way is to hire or trade someone who doesn’t have a brilliant electronic age or has been beaten up or doesn’t have much under their belt, even when all indications are pointing to that,” Bloom said. the game.”

Barnes signed a two-year, $18.75 million extension in July of 2021, just days before his first All-Star Game. At the time, he led the American League in strikeouts and was second in saves. He seemed to be emerging as a legitimate relative after spending several years as a heavy hitter.

But his career took a nosedive almost immediately after the deal was sealed. In the second half of 2021, Barnes was so unreliable that he was kept off the roster for some postseason runs. He had a 7.94 ERA over the first two months of last season before missing the middle two months due to a sore right shoulder. When he came back, the results were better—a 1.59 ERA, with several of his outings in the shutout role—but the strike rate was never what it used to be, and the Red Sox weren’t convinced that the fundamental data indicated that Barnes was on the path to regaining his former success.

“Probably not, unfortunately,” said one of the evaluators within the organization. “It’s hard to say (why). It just wasn’t the same.”

From July 2018 to July 2021, Barnes had the third highest batting average among major relievers in the league, behind only Josh Hader and Edwin Diaz. His fWAR for that time frame was the eighth best in the majors. In the 2018 playoffs, he pitched 10 times and allowed once. Seven of his outings were hitless in that postseason. He got the win at the inaugural World Championships.

But Brazier, Chris Sale and Rafael Devers are the only Red Sox left from this championship team as their rosters continue to rotate, often in unexpected ways.

(Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


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