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.”

Red Sox outfield prospect Nick Decker ‘could develop into really good platoon player’ at major-league level

As a member of the Red Sox’ 2018 draft class, outfield prospect Nick Decker is often overshadowed by the likes of Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, and even Thaddeus Ward.

That being said, Decker is still one of the premier outfielders in Boston’s minor-league pipeline, as MLB Pipeline ranks the former second-round pick as the organization’s No. 13 overall prospect.

In his first full professional season in 2019, the New Jersey native posted a solid .247/.328/.471 slash line (135 wRC+) to go along with six home runs and 25 RBI over 53 games and 197 plate appearances for short-season Lowell.

Most of the success Decker enjoyed with the Spinners came against right-handed pitching, as the left-handed hitting outfielder clubbed five of his six homers off righties while struggling against southpaws to the tune of a measly .613 OPS.

Fast forward more than a year later and Decker, now 21 years old, endured the same difficulties against lefties at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers after not being part of the club’s 60-man player pool at any point this past season.

According to SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, Decker “raked against right-handers, but continued to struggle against lefties” during instructs.

Even with that apparent hole in his offensive approach at the moment, all is not lost for Decker, as scouts still seem encouraged by what he can do against right-handed pitching alone.

“Even with his struggles against southpaws, scouts were encouraged by his power and offensive potential against righties,” Cundall wrote. “So much so that they think he could develop into a really good platoon player. ”

Because the highest level of pitching he’s faced in organized games as a professional thus far has been out of the New York-Penn League, Decker’s career trajectory has not yet really come into focus.

At 21, Decker still has room to grow and develop as a baseball player, especially on the defensive side of things.

With two years left before reaching Rule 5 eligibility, the one-time University of Maryland commit will certainly have the time to improve upon those aspects of his game going into the spring.

SoxProspects.com’s projected 2021 rosters have Decker beginning next season at Low-A Greenville of the South Atlantic League.

(Top photo of Decker: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)