The Red Sox have announced that they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with Matt barnes. The deal also contains a club option covering the 2024 campaign.
Barnes will play the rest of this season on the $ 4.5 million deal he signed last winter to avoid arbitration. He will receive a signing bonus of $ 1.75 million, followed by successive salaries of $ 7.25 million and $ 7.5 million in 2022 and 2023. The option is priced at $ 8 million ( with a $ 2.25 million buyout) and can go up to $ 2 million depending on Barnes’ matches completed totals over the coming years. All in all, this is a guarantee of $ 18.75 million for ISE Baseball customer that can reach a maximum of $ 26.5 million if they hit all the escalators and the Red Sox exercise. the option. The average annual value (calculated for luxury tax purposes) is $ 9.375 billion.
The extension arguably removes the best impending free agent reliever from next winter’s market. Barnes has generally been a strong arm late in the inning, but he took his game to a new level in 2021. The right-hander worked at a sterling 2.68 ERA over 37 innings, and his peripherals are even more impressive.
Barnes has always been a first pitcher at bat, but his strikeout percentage of 44.6% is easily a career high. He walks against his opponents at a rate of 7.2% which would also be a personal best if he maintains it for a full season. The right-hander throws first-pitch strikes at a career-high pace, positioning himself well to persuade hitters to chase throws out of the crease deeper into home plate appearances. That’s especially critical for Barnes, who struggled with the 2018-2020 free passes.
Overall, Barnes has been among the best late-inning arms in the league this season. Among the relievers with at least twenty innings pitched, only Josh hader and Craig kimbrel have higher withdrawal rates. Liam Hendriks and Kimbrel are the only pitchers with better strike-out rate differentials / walk than Barnes’ 37.4 percentage point spread. Hendriks is the only reliever with a better SIERA than Barnes’ 1.73 mark, and the Red Sox right-hander’s 16.3% strike rate is in the top 15. Barnes rightly earned his first All-Star nod in 2021.
This level of dominance makes it a bit surprising that he agreed to a two-year extension just months before reaching free agency for the first time. Hendriks, the top free agent reliever last winter, landed a four-year, $ 54 million contract with the White Sox, despite being a few months older than Barnes this offseason. Hendriks was coming off a two-year excellence streak, while Barnes had only pitched at an elite level a few months after a solid but not incredible production career. It would have been a surprise to see Barnes tie the Hendriks deal due to his slightly inferior track record, but he still seemed a strong candidate for a three-year pact on the free market.
Of course, a player’s desire to achieve free agency and seek the highest guarantee varies from person to person. Barnes is a New England native who attended the University of Connecticut. He’s been a member of the Red Sox organization since being selected in the first round ten years ago, and he has spoken of his ability to strike a long-term deal several times over the past eight months. Barnes’ affinity for the organization has undoubtedly played a significant role in his passing up the opportunity to hear from other clubs this winter.
It’s easy to see the pull for the Red Sox. They’ll be locking down a key part of their enclosure for at least two more seasons, with the potential to keep it in the fold for a third year. If Barnes can maintain most or all of his current form of breakout, they would have an elite back-end option for manager Alex Cora at bargain prices. Even if Barnes regressed and returned to his previous levels, the terms of the expansion wouldn’t seem so unreasonable. It’s an affordable opportunity for the Red Sox to keep a longtime productive member of the organization who appears to have taken his game to new heights this year.