Barnes brings WS pedigree, closing experience

January 31st, 2023

MIAMI -- The Marlins added an experienced late-inning option to their bullpen on Monday afternoon by acquiring Matt Barnes and cash considerations from the Red Sox for left-hander Richard Bleier.

Barnes, who is due to make $7.5 million during the final year of his contract, joins a Marlins relief corps that saw (20 saves) and (10) find mixed results as the closer in 2022. This offseason, Miami also acquired via a trade with the Rays, selected from the Guardians in the Rule 5 Draft and added four prospects to the 40-man roster.

"Everybody was awesome," Barnes said via Zoom on Tuesday. "Super excited to have me, and I'm obviously very excited to be there. Just kind of talked through some of the logistical stuff, kind of what they saw on their end. They were looking for somebody who had experience winning, experience throwing at the back end of a bullpen. They were super excited. So like I said, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come down to Miami and do anything I can to help this team win really."

The longest-tenured Red Sox player until they designated him for assignment on Jan. 24, Barnes was completely blindsided by the decision -- a byproduct of Boston's full 40-man roster and needing to make space for the signing of free-agent outfielder and former Marlin Adam Duvall.

Barnes had become one of the club's most trusted relievers by 2016, and during the '18 World Series championship run, he dominated across 10 playoff appearances. Barnes served as the full-time closer in '21 and made the All-Star team, but he struggled in the second half following a week-long stretch in which he lost his mechanics and formed bad habits. Once Barnes felt he had regained his stuff, he was sidelined by COVID-19.

That carried over into 2022, when Barnes didn't have his stuff at the beginning of the year, creating a "snowball effect." He tried "everything under the sun" -- from long toss to extra weight and training room work -- to find his old form. When Barnes' workload increased, he landed on the 60-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. Though Barnes finished the season with a 4.31 ERA, a 3.87 FIP and a 1.44 WHIP in 44 games, he posted a 1.59 ERA in his final 24 outings upon his return from the IL.

"The mental part is probably 80 percent of the entire process, right?" Barnes said. "Like obviously there's physical things going on where you don't feel good in your mechanics, but a lot of it is the mental side of it, right? You look at how fast you can climb to the top of the mountain and how fast you can fall right back down it. And I tell people this -- and not in a bragging sense, just in like a real world life situation -- I go from being an All-Star closer to not making a postseason roster to being terrible for two months, and then on the IL for another two.

"You went from the highs to the lows in the blink of an eye it felt like, and that's not easy to deal with, honestly, especially since I kind of felt like it was my responsibility to be the guy at the back end when all else failed. I didn't. I kind of cherish that and took on that role. So it was difficult watching the guys out there every single night, not being able to help, and I know how difficult it is to be in the bullpen and kind of how it truly takes every single guy down there to do their thing and help to make sure that the total product remains healthy and consistent in doing a good job. So it was difficult without a doubt."

Bleier, a local product out of South Plantation High, had been a dependable bullpen piece (133 ERA+) since the Marlins acquired him on Aug. 1, 2020, from the Orioles during the COVID-19 outbreak. He was under contract through 2023, with a '24 team option, but the Marlins already have late-inning lefties in Scott and , plus prospects  and .

It has been a busy month for the Marlins, who signed Jean Segura to be their third baseman and right-hander Johnny Cueto to join their rotation. Miami also dealt longtime shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Dodgers for infield prospect Jacob Amaya, and later right-hander Pablo López and two prospects to Minnesota for 2022 American League batting champion Luis Arraez, who will play second base.