Red Sox, Matt Barnes talked contract extension earlier this year prior to COVID-19 shutdown

Before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Major League Baseball to shut down in March, the Red Sox and right-handed reliever Matt Barnes apparently talked about a potential contract extension.

Speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the 30-year-old hurler expressed his desire to remain with the organization he began his professional career with back in 2011.

“I’ve expressed my interest to the front office and ownership of wanting to stay in Boston for the rest of my career,” Barnes said. “We had some conversations about a longer relationship moving forward. And then COVID hit and there were so many things going on with the season shut down and the health and safety, things kind of got put on hold a little bit.”

The only member of the Sox’ 2011 draft class who is still currently with the club, the former first-round pick is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 4.01 xFIP over 24 appearances and 23 innings pitched.

On the surface, those are not exactly spectacular results. But, upon closer inspection, Barnes turned things around for the better in September by allowing just three runs over 10 innings of work spanning his final 11 outings of the year. He did that while limiting opposing hitters to a .556 OPS against while striking out nearly 37% of the batters he faced.

With those improved numbers in mind, the Sox signed Barnes to a $4.5 million contract earlier this week for the upcoming 2021 season, the UCONN product’s final season under team control before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

“There had been some discussions on trying to make something work moving forward beyond next season,” Barnes told Speier. “We’ll see if there’s more dialogue going forward. We’re not going to force anything, but some discussions have been had.”

A client of ISE Baseball, Barnes has been one of the more durable relievers in the American League in his time with the Red Sox, appearing in 62 or more games for three straight seasons (2016-2019).

Despite his shortcomings, such as untimely control issues which leads to in uptick in walks at times, the flamethrower has without a doubt proven he has the “ability to go out there and be able to take the ball every single day.”

That being said, if Barnes puts together another solid effort in 2021, he will presumably have a fair number of suitors in need of bullpen help come this time next year.

As things currently stand, Barnes, as noted by Speier, is on the cusp of surpassing the likes of Cy Young, Ellis Kinder, Roger Clemens, and Derek Lowe in all-time appearances with the Red Sox (325).

Barnes would have the chance to move up that list even more if he stayed in Boston beyond in 2020, which, of course, is something he would be more than happy to do.

“It’s the only place where I’ve played,” said Barnes. “It’s a first-class organization. I’d love to spend the rest of my career here.”

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Released by Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher and top prospect Blake Swihart has been released by the Rangers, the club announced Tuesday.

Swihart, 28, originally signed a minor-league pact with Texas back in December after spending the first eight-plus years of his professional career with Boston.

Last April, the Red Sox designated Swihart, a former 2011 first-round draft pick, and dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for outfield prospect Marcus Wilson.

The New Mexico native appeared in 30 games for Arizona from April 22 until May 31, going a measly 9-for-64 at the plate (.141) with three home runs and nine RBI before getting placed on the injured list with an oblique strain.

From there, Swihart was eventually activated from the IL on August 7, got into one game on August 11 against the Dodgers where he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts off the bench, and was subsequently DFA’d a day later.

After clearing waivers and getting outrighted, the one-time University of Texas commit played 16 games and posted a .143/.234/.304 slash line for the DBacks’ Triple-A affiliate in Reno from the middle of August until the beginning of September. At that point, Swihart opted to become a free agent, leading to his joining the Rangers on a minor-league contract, as previously mentioned.

In his brief stint with Texas, Swihart had a decent spring training, going 5-for-16 at the plate with one home run and four RBI prior to the COVID-19-induced shutdown.

Assigned to the Rangers’ alternate training site last month, Swihart had been one of four non-roster backstops in Texas’ 60-man player pool.

Now a free agent for the second time in 11 months, Swihart will have the opportunity to sign wherever he so chooses depending on how much interest he garners on the open market.