Matt Barnes
Locking up Matt Barnes was smart business by the Red Sox. Barnes has turned into an elite closer and happily took a home town discount to stay. (Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Locking Up Matt Barnes Was Smart Business By The Red Sox

Matt Barnes never wanted to leave Boston and the Red Sox had no interest in losing their dominant closer. Right before the All-Star break, the Red Sox found a way to lock up their closer on a very team friendly contract. The Barnes extension should be considered a huge win by the Boston front office.

Boston has most of their team locked up for the 2022 season. The only free agents that could depart this offseason include Garrett Richards (team option; good riddance), Martin Perez (team option), JD Martinez (player option; probably will stay), Eduardo Rodriguez, and Adam Ottavino. Barnes was the big fish of that group and likely would have been considered the top reliever on the market. Barnes would have gotten paid handsomely.

Barnes, 31, signs a two-year extension that includes a team option for the third season. The former first round pick out of UConn will earn $7.25 million per year in the first two years of the deal. The team option is for $8 million. That is a very affordable number for a closer who is registering an ERA of 2.68 and is set to play in his first All-Star Game.

Barnes has always been a good reliever but he has taken a big step forward in 2021. The biggest change is that Barnes has been so much more aggressive. His 44.6% strikeout percentage is a career-high and a lot of it has to do with throwing first pitch strikes at a much higher rate.

Barnes’ advanced metrics have been off the charts. The Sox closer ranks in the 99th percentile in xwOBA, xERA, xBA, and K%. Barnes continues to top the leader board in spin rate and has continued to look nasty even after the stick stuff crackdown.

Compare this contract to some of the other relievers out there. Liam Hendricks just got $54 million over three years. Hendriks is very good but it’s more than double of what Barnes just signed for. There really is no other way to slice it; the Sox got themselves a deal.

It’s hard not to love this deal by Boston. Chaim Bloom found a way to lock up his closer for the foreseeable future. Creating a culture players want to be part is key to building a sustainable championship caliber team.

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