Marlins and Red Sox Swap Relievers, as Richard Bleier and Matt Barnes Trade Places

In an interesting swap of relievers, the Marlins acquired RHP Matt Barnes on January 30 in exchange for left-hander Richard Bleier. Boston looked to move on from Barnes after the righty-hander was designated for assignment, but the Sox have traded him in for a left-hander who’s proven to be effective thus far. As for the Marlins, Miami is set to bring in a power pitcher who struggled throughout parts of the 2022 season.

Related: Zack Greinke Set to Re-Join Kansas City Royals Yet Again

A Look at Bleier

Aside from one gruesome season in which he posted a 5.37 ERA in 2019, new Red Sox reliever Richard Bleier has been a reliable arm. The 35-year-old posted ERAs below 2.00 in each of his first two seasons in Baltimore, before a rough 2019 campaign. Bleier rebounded with the O’s in 2020, before being dealt to Miami in August of that year to aid the Marlins’ postseason run.

Bleier did post worse numbers in 2022 than in prior seasons, as his 3.55 ERA marked a jump from 2020 and 2021. Still, the righty proved to be a rather solid arm for the Marlins.

The lefty has boasted solid control throughout his career, and his above-average Edge% and BB% rates over the past three seasons are proof of that. Bleier doesn’t strike out many batters, but does pound the zone with a sinker & cutter, and can induce weak contact and whiffs with a slider that can be tunneled off the cutter.

A career 3.06 ERA pitcher, Bleier will join a Red Sox bullpen that is set to look different in 2023.

A Look at Barnes

New Marlins RHP Matt Barnes will head to a new organization for the first time since being drafted out of the University of Connecticut in 2011. The 32-year-old had a rough 2022, as Barnes posted a 4.31 ERA and 4.8 BB/9 over 39.2 innings. Barnes, though, pitched very well after the All-Star break. The former UConn star recorded a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 innings in the second half.

Barnes has dealt with control issues in the past — the former Sox reliever owns a career BB/9 rate of 4.2. However, the drop in strikeouts and whiffs are rather concerning. Last season, Barnes recorded a career-low K/9 rate of 7.7 and a Whiff% of 28.4%. That’s a bit of a disparity from the gaudy 13.8 K/9 and 33.7% Whiff% rates Barnes put up in his All-Star season in 2021.

Barnes has relied in the past on a power curve, to along with a hard fastball with good extension. The metrics on his fastball were fine last season, but expected stats indicate that Barnes actually got lucky at points. Barnes’ curve, meanwhile, proved to be more hittable last season.

Here’s a look at Barnes’ curveballs thrown from last season, Something that’s easily noticeable is that the ex-Red Sox righty saw the curve put in play far too often. Just as one example, 17 of Barnes’ 325 curves resulted in fly balls:

But back in 2021, just six of Barnes’ 445 were hit in the air:

Barnes relied heavily on inducing whiffs and weak contact with the curve, something that he couldn’t do at times last season. Just from looking at swings and misses down and out zone over the last two seasons, that’s blatantly obvious. Now with Miami, we’ll see if the 32-year-old can return to his 2021 form.

What it Means

The Red Sox continue its bullpen re-alignment, one that already cost Barnes his spot on the 40-man roster. Boston DFA’d the former first round pick last week, but Barnes did manage to net the Sox an experienced reliever in Bleier. The 35-year-old is set to join a bullpen that includes new additions Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen. Bleier may not be a power pitcher, but’s he proven to be effective in terms of control and command.

Miami, meanwhile, will look to see if the former All-Star can return to form with the Marlins. It’s not the riskiest move for the Marlins, but Miami did give up a solid reliever in Bleier. On the other hand, the benefit could be great, given Barnes’ prior production. If it doesn’t work out, Miami still owns a decent bullpen led by Dylan Floro and Tanner Scott.

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