Teams must seek approval from the Commissioner’s office to replace injured players on a playoff list. Eliminating injuries renders that player ineligible for both the remainder of the current series and for the next series, should the team progress. If the Red Sox erase their 1-0 deficit and eliminate the Rays, Richards would not be eligible to return until the World Series.
While Richards’ numbers throughout the season are disappointing, they are also a bit misleading. The 33-year-old started the season as a member of the rotation but struggled which led to his transfer to a reliever position in mid-August. Since switching to shorter stints, Richards has been much better than he was a starter, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored. Over 26 1/3 relief executives to close out the regular season, he pitched with a 3.42 / 2.90 FIP ERA.
Richards’ strikeout (24.8%) and walk (10.6%) rates were close to the league average, but he racked up goals on nearly half the balls in play against him. He gained increased confidence from manager Alex Cora along the way, seeing higher and higher work as the season wore on. His contract contains a $ 10 million club option (or $ 1.5 million buyout) for the 2022 season.
Barnes’ year has gone in the opposite direction. The 31-year-old was among the best relievers in the game during the first two months of the season, earning an All-Star nod and a two-year $ 18.75 million contract extension. He had a surprisingly poor second half, posting a 6.48 ERA on 16 2/3 frames since the break. He’s consistently drawn 26.6% of opposing hitters during that time, but Barnes’ walk and homerun rates have risen dramatically in the past two months. These recent struggles have led the Red Sox to leave him out of the original Division Series roster, but he will have another opportunity to strengthen after Richards’ injury.