Marlins trade Richard Bleier for Matt Barnes

Jan 31, 2023 - 12:00 AM
Matt Barnes #32 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after a victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 11, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Veteran relievers Matt Barnes and Richard Bleier traded places on Monday in a deal between the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox, and I love it. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was first to report it. The trade is now official.

The Red Sox designated Barnes for assignment last week, ending his Boston tenure after parts of nine MLB seasons. He’s had a 4.07 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 431.2 IP, making all but two of his career appearances in relief and saving 47 games over that span. The World Series champ was a key setup man during their 2018 postseason run (8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 9 K). The 32-year-old is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, which has a club option for 2024.

As recently as 2021, Barnes was a swing-and-miss fiend. His 37.8% strikeout rate was seventh-best among qualified MLB relievers. But that number was sliced in half last year as the right-hander struggled through a shoulder injury. Barnes returned from the IL in August and wrapped up the season with 21 scoreless appearances in 24 tries, reclaiming the Red Sox closer’s role at the very end.

Barnes’ fastball velocity and curveball spin rate gradually climbed throughout 2022, though not enough to match his career averages. The curve was especially effective during his peak seasons—it carried a minus-9 run value in 2018, minus-11 in 2019 and minus-9 in 2021, according to Baseball Savant. Last year, its run value was zero (approximately league average). There is no guarantee of him fully regaining his old stuff, so the Marlins are taking on some risk here.

Bleier’s bottomline results as a Marlin from 2020-2022 were pretty good (3.16 ERA, 3.12 FIP in 122.1 IP). However, particularly last season, his pitch-to-contact style betrayed him in high-leverage situations and he stopped receiving those opportunities. Entering his age-36 season, the affable lefty is likewise a potential pending free agent if his 2024 club option isn’t exercised.

With the cash considerations, the Marlins’ 2023 payroll is practically unchanged by this transaction.

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