Former Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes had the opportunity to watch his old team take on his new team in Grapefruit League action on Tuesday night. The Marlins right-hander decided against it.
Barnes pitched in Miami’s 4-3 win over the Astros on Monday. As such, the righty was not required to in attendance for Tuesday’s tilt against Boston. He instead left Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium for his apartment after lunch, well before the Red Sox defeated the Marlins, 7-2, to remain unbeaten this spring.
It has now been a little over a month since the Red Sox designated Barnes for assignment and subsequently traded him to the Marlins for left-handed reliever Richard Bleier. At that time, the 32-year-old described the decision as “a complete blindside.”
Though four-plus weeks have passed since he was moved, Barnes told Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe that while he holds no grudge against the organization he spent the first 12 years of his professional career with, he does take issue with who is running the club at present.
“I’m not mad and I don’t have any animosity toward the Red Sox organization because that organization represents so much more than who’s currently running it,” Barnes said. “The people at the top were so great to me.”
According to Abraham, Barnes “mentioned being grateful” to Red Sox ownership, general manager Brian O’Halloran, and assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Raquel Ferreira. He did not make any mention of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, however.
Bloom, of course, made the decision to give Barnes a two-year, $18.75 million contract extension in July 2021. At that point in time, Barnes was among the top relievers in the American League and had just been named to his first All-Star Game.
After posting a 2.61 ERA during the first half of the 2021 campaign, though, Barnes struggled to a 6.48 ERA in 22 appearances (16 2/3 innings) down the stretch. He only made Boston’s ALDS roster as an injury replacement that October and was left off the ALCS roster entirely.
Last year, Barnes got off a rough start in which he produced a 7.94 ERA in 20 games before hitting the injured list with right shoulder inflammation in early June. He returned to action two months later and ended his season on a strong note by forging a 1.59 ERA in his final 24 outings. The Red Sox, however, were convinced that those numbers did not reflect Barnes’ true performance.
“They told me I was lucky,” said Barnes. “Unfortunately, a lot of people in this game make decisions based on a spreadsheet.”
This appears to be another indirect shot at Bloom, who explained in January that while he holds Barnes in high regard, the decision to move on from him had more to do with giving other relievers in the organization — especially those who still have minor-league options — an extended look in 2023.
“This was not an easy move. But one that we felt was the right one,” Bloom told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) on Jan. 24. “It wasn’t anything bad about Matt, who I’m sure is going to continue to have success in his career. It was a reflection of where we thought we were and how we saw the pen coming together and what those other guys have a chance to do for us.”
Cotillo also reported on Tuesday that he was always told Bloom was one of Barnes’ “biggest fans (if not the biggest) in the organization. There was not a lot of surprise when it was Barnes who got the rare in-season extension.”
In trading Barnes to the Marlins, the Red Sox agreed to send Miami $5.5 million in cash considerations as part of the deal. Barnes, who turns 33 in June, can become a free agent for the first time next winter if his $8 million club option for 2024 is not picked up at the end of the year. He told Abraham that he is looking forward to a fresh start with a new team.
“It’s been great here so far. The guys are awesome; the staff is awesome,” Barnes said. “We have some really good talent on this team. I’ve seen that in a few weeks. As weird as it’s been, the adjustment has been pretty good. But it’s hard when you go from knowing everybody to knowing nobody.”
Following Tuesday’s exhibition contest in Jupiter, the Red Sox will not see the Marlins again until they host them in a three-game series from June 27-29. Barnes said he will save being “buddy-buddy” with his former teammates and coaches until he steps into Fenway Park as a visitor for the first time in his big-league career.
“I know I was fortunate to play as long as I did in Boston,” he added. “But I’ve got some good years left in me. We have a lot of talent in this clubhouse and we’re here to win.”
(Picture of Matt Barnes: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)