Trade deadline season is officially upon us, with reports that the Red Sox and Phillies have engaged in talks on closer Brandon Workman.
While Workman is sure to draw continued interest, the Red Sox reliever more teams covet, per multiple big league sources, is setup man Matt Barnes.
Either right-hander would help a contending bullpen, given their respective pedigrees. Each has posted a 0.00 ERA in three World Series appearances (Workman in 2013, Barnes in 2018), each pair a big curveball with a mid-90s fastball, and each checks important boxes regarding makeup.
Two factors make the 30-year-old Barnes more appealing, even though Workman, 32, is technically the better pitcher at the moment.
One, Barnes remains under team control through the end of next season, whereas Workman becomes a free agent this fall. And two, he's more of a traditional power reliever, which teams value, whereas Workman pitches backwards off his curveball, making him an unorthodox closer.
Barnes averages 95 mph on his fastball and 84 mph on his curve. He has reached 99 mph as recently as last September. Workman, by contrast, averages 93 mph on his fastball and throws a bigger 79 mph curve. He hasn't touched 96 mph since 2017, per Brooks Baseball.
Workman is coming off a dominant 2019 campaign, with a 10-1 record, 1.88 ERA, and .123 opposing batting average that is the lowest ever recorded. He hasn't had a lot of meaningful opportunities this season, thanks to the team's 8-18 record. He's 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA and four saves, and has made just two appearances in the last two weeks. He has struck out eight in 6.2 innings.
Barnes' performance has been more up-and-down. He started last season like an All-Star before wilting under the pounding of constant high-leverage usage last June. He still struck out a career-high 15.4 per nine innings. This year he's 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. Six of the seven runs he has allowed have come in two appearances against the Yankees, leading to speculation that New York has spotted a tell when he throws his curveball.
In any event, virtually every contender is desperate for bullpen help. While the return on relievers hasn't been overwhelming in recent years, there are exceptions.
Last July 31, the Tigers received left-hander and top-40 prospect Joey Wentz from the Braves for All-Star closer Shane Greene, who like Barnes had a year of team control remaining. The Red Sox, meanwhile, turned Andrew Miller into Eduardo Rodriguez in 2014, two years before the Yankees swapped Miller for top prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, the latter of whom helped them acquire James Paxton in 2018.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already made it clear he'll listen on anyone over the next 10 days, and he should prepare himself for plenty of calls on Workman -- but maybe even more on Barnes.