A year ago, Matt Barnes watched two of his closest friends get shipped away at the trade deadline. The Red Sox weren't going anywhere, and relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree had more value to the Phillies than the last-place Red Sox.
That scenario could've easily unfolded again this season with Barnes in the Workman role. A looming free agent in the fall, Barnes would've made a compelling addition to any contender, and lord knows, rival clubs have asked. Barnes has long been the team's mostly highly-sought arm in trade talks, but neither Dave Dombrowski nor Chaim Bloom ever pulled the trigger because they recognized his talent.
And now it's no longer an issue. The Red Sox on Sunday announced that they had signed Barnes to a two-year extension. The deal totals $18.75 million guaranteed, per a league source, and includes an $8 million option for 2024 that can increase to $10 million based on games finished. There's also a $2.25 million buyout.
It's the largest contract handed out by Bloom in his young tenure as chief baseball officer, and it establishes Barnes' importance in the organization as he prepares to jet to Denver for his first All-Star Game.
It has long been clear that the Red Sox won't be selling this month. They're buyers with their eyes on a World Series. Far from being expendable, Barnes has proven himself indispensable to their title hopes, with his rise mirroring that of his team.
"It's a great day for the Red Sox," Bloom said. "We've all seen it over the last number of years, Matt has established himself as one of the better relievers in baseball, and this year he's taken his game to a whole new level in an even bigger role. Beyond that, he's exactly the type of person you'd want representing the organization. That's a credit to him and his family. Those things are so important in the players you invest in.
"This place isn't for everybody. But people who love being here, I think they recognize and see the Red Sox as more than just a place to play or a place to work."
Barnes certainly qualifies. A native of Bethel, Conn. who has settled in nearby Newtown, he realized through conversations with former teammates that, "the grass isn't always greener." Boston is where he wanted to be, and the Red Sox treated him fairly, making him the highest-paid reliever on the team.
"There were multiple factors when it came down to it," Barnes said. "The one thing I always said, and I made this clear to Chaim and everybody, I just wanted a fair contact for what I was doing, and we were able to not only come to do that, but when you add everything else to the equation, this is a place I wanted to stay."
The other parts of the equation included a proximity to home, a training staff that has helped keep him remarkably healthy, and the ability to continue playing for manager Alex Cora.
"I love the city of Boston, I loving playing for the fans here," Barnes said. "When you start adding up all these things, there really wasn't a place I wanted to play that wasn't Boston."
He made the decision even easier with a tremendous first half. He enters Sunday's finale with the Phillies boasting a 4-2 record with a 2.68 ERA, 19 saves, and more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings. He was particularly dominant in April and May, when the Red Sox made their surprising run to first place in the American League East.
All of that individual and team success meant there was no chance he'd be moved this month. He never let the thought enter his mind, even before the season, based on what he saw in Fort Myers.
"We believed in ourselves probably long before people did," Barnes said. "And when you see that, you know you're going to have a good team, and truly believe that. Not to mention, if I start worrying about things that are three, four months away, it's going to be awfully hard for me to focus on what we're trying to accomplish right now."
It's no longer an issue. Ten years after the Red Sox selected him with their first pick in the 2011 draft, Barnes isn't going anywhere. He's simply too important.