Matt Barnes is a former first-round draft pick in 2011 (19th overall) for the Boston Red Sox. Although he came up as a starter through the Red Sox farm system, he found greater success in a bullpen role. He made his major league debut in 2014 and was a significant arm out of Boston's bullpen from 2015 to 2022, appearing in 429 games.
A World Series champion on the Red Sox 2018 ball club, Barnes had his best season in 2021. He was selected to his only All-Star game in a season that saw him record 24 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 60 games and 54 2/3 innings pitched. After signing an $18.75 million contract to stay in Boston mid-season, Barnes took a dreadful turn and was later traded to the Miami Marlins in January 2023. The downturn continued in Miami as Barnes appeared in only 24 games with a bloated 5.48 ERA.
Could Caleb Cotham and the Phillies pitching coaches find a way to fix Matt Barnes? The 33-year-old right-hander is a free agent for the first time and will likely have to settle for a minor league contract after seeing his star fade in recent years.
According to Baseball Savant, Barnes relies on three pitches: a knuckle curve, a 93.4 mph four-seam fastball, and a split-finger. While his curve has regressed a bit from its former glory, hitters destroyed Barnes' four-seamer in 2023, hitting a scorching .395 against the pitch.
Maybe a tweak to his fastball will be all it takes to make Matt Barnes an effective reliever again. If Barnes figures things out, perhaps we could see him return to a ninth-inning role.