Jackie Bradley Jr. remains without a team. It's a reality Matt Barnes can't fathom.
"The fact that Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't have a job right now is absolutely mind-boggling," said the Red Sox reliever. "To me he's the best defensive center fielder in the game, a guy who has won multiple World Series and absolutely needs to be on a baseball team right now."
Bradley Jr. isn't alone in his existence, with the likes of fellow free agent Jake Odorizzi also still looking for a landing spot. And the outfielder certainly has interested suitors, with the Red Sox being one of them.
But free agency these days can be a tricky proposition. It's something Barnes may very well experience next offseason.
The 30-year-old is in the last year of being controlled by the Red Sox, with the righty slated to make $4.5 million in 2021. And while he has discussed contract extensions with team in previous seasons, Barnes is preparing himself to ride out the contract year with the same mindset he has had leading to this point.
"I’ve got to go out there and get outs," said Barnes, who is coming off a 2020 in which he posted a 4.30 ERA with nine saves in 23 innings pitched. "Yes, I’m going into my free agent year but it’s not the first year that i can go in and negotiate a contract. I’ve been doing that the last three years now. So while it’s now maybe playing for the other 29 teams, potentially right? Or auditioning for the other 29 teams, I’m still wearing a Red Sox uniform and I’m still going out there and trying to win as many ballgames as possible with this team.
"The last two years I’ve been essentially auditioning for the ability to negotiate a higher pay rate with this team. So if you start focusing on where you’re going to be in a year or what you’re going to accomplish, it’s not going to work out. My job is get outs, go out and perform to the best of my ability and be a good teammate to these guys and try and win as many ballgames as possible. If you focus on those things the rest takes care of itself."
Barnes added when asked about potentially talking with the Red Sox about an extension, "That would be fantastic. This is the only place I’ve ever played in my career, obviously. I love playing here. I’ve won here. The fans are great in Boston. This is home to me. I would love to play here for the rest of my career, but at the same time I’m focused on going out and getting ready for the season and if those conversations pick back up, then they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. I’m going to focus on what I’m doing and let my agent and the front office handle any negotiations and let them take that if they want to."