Nationals, Matt Barnes agree to Minor-League Deal

The Nationals have signed plenty of minor-league flyers in 2024. They added yet another former all-star yesterday in the form of reliever Matt Barnes.
Miami Marlins v Los Angeles Angels
Miami Marlins v Los Angeles Angels / Rob Leiter/GettyImages

The Nationals and 2021 all-star closer Matt Barnes have agreed to a minor league contract. The contract includes an invitation to spring training. The deal is still pending a physical, but assuming all goes well, Barnes will join the team as soon as possible. Barnes, 33, has not had a great season since his 2021 all-star year. Barnes pitched 24 games with Miami in 2023, throwing 21.1 innings, striking out 20, and walking 10, with a 5.38 ERA. Barnes will look to break camp as a mid/late-inning reliever in the Nationals bullpen, with Hunter Harvey & Kyle Finnegan holding the Setup/Closer roles.

Back in 2018, Matt Barnes was a key reliever in the Boston Red Sox World Series Championship. In 2021, Barnes would take on more of a closer role, pitching to a 3.79 ERA over 60 innings and collecting 24 saves along the way. Barnes would be an all-star that year and earn a 3-year extension. Barnes later suffered right shoulder inflammation and was placed on the 15-day injured list in May 2022 and would be transferred to the 60-day in July.

Matt Barnes has a great chance at making the Opening Day roster, especially if he can stay healthy. Barnes missed most of 2022 & 2023 due to injury. The injury in 2022 would lead to Barnes being DFA’d and traded to Miami before the 2023 season. Looking at the Nationals ‘pen while Spring Training continues, Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, and Tanner Rainey are the only locks in the bullpen, all other spots are up in the air for any newcomers or veterans looking to break camp with the ballclub.

The other new wrinkle as we found out this morning is that Mason Thompson is out for the season and will have Tommy John Surgery. Thompson had an incredible start to his 2023 season before overuse and fatigue caught up to him, which contributed to his injury. The Nationals already needed a reliever before the Thompson injury news broke, but this continues to clear the way for Barnes or another Non-Roster Invite to make the Opening Day Roster.

The bullpen needs a veteran arm. Dylan Floro will be one veteran arm, as he signed a 1-year deal in December. Now, Floro’s former teammate Matt Barnes could make the team as a 7th-inning guy if healthy. If not, Barnes is more depth as the Nationals, and most MLB teams, need options for bullpen arms. The Nationals have lacked depth in the past years, and signing not only Matt Barnes, but Richard Bleier, Derek Law, Jacob Barnes, and Zach Davies are all depth pieces the Nationals desperately needed. If they perform well enough to make the roster, the Nationals will take that too.