For two straight nights in The Bronx, KC Royals reliever Scott Barlow has endured cruel punishment at the hands of his hosts, the New York Yankees.
First came Thursday night’s opening game of the clubs’ present four-game series. Barlow came on in the bottom of the ninth to a protect a scoreless tie and get Kansas City to extra innings, a precarious situation made even more dangerous by the on-deck presence of Yankee slugger and major league home run leader Aaron Judge.
The stingy Barlow entered with a 1.93 ERA and immediately retired Andrew Benintendi, who’d been his teammate just the day before but became a Yankee via a late Wednesday night trade. But Judge walked off Kansas City with his 39th homer of the season.
Friday night was worse. With a 5-3 lead, Barlow entered in the eighth to face at least Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres, with Josh Donaldson and Benintendi behind them. He gained some small measure of revenge against Judge by striking him out, but things quickly turned sour.
Rizzo reached first on a slow grounder to Nicky Lopez at third. Torres singled. Donaldson’s grounder to short looked like a sure inning-ending double play, but rookie Maikel Garcia juggled it and couldn’t make the play. With the bases suddenly loaded, Benintendi grounded to the right side; first baseman Nick Pratto snared it but Barlow, trying to cover first, appeared to slip on grass moistened by in-game rain. A run scored to make it 5-4.
Barlow then walked Aaron Hicks to tie the game, surrendered a single to Isiah Kiner-Falefa to give the Yanks the lead, and yielded a run-scoring groundout to Jose Trevino. Jackson Kowar took over and walked DJ LeMahieu to reload the bases for Judge, who pounded Kowar’s first pitch for a grand slam. The Royals didn’t score in the ninth and New York won 11-5.
Barlow’s Thursday and Friday disappointments come against the backdrop of Tuesday’s trade deadline—MLB Trade Rumors ranked him 32nd among its Top 60 trade candidates before Friday’s game. Have the Yankees damaged his market value?
Two losses won’t diminish the value of KC Royals reliever Scott Barlow.
Teams are probably making regular calls to the Royals about Barlow—he’s among the major leagues’ better relievers. He earned the Royals’ 2021 Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award with a 71-game 2.42 ERA and 16 saves (a total he’s already matched this season), had a career 142 ERA+, including 188 last year and 195 this season (through Thursday) before Friday, and has a 2.45 ERA in 44 appearances this season.
Being one of the best and quite team controllable at the same time—he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season—render him attractive to contenders searching for stretch run set-up men and closers. His losses to New York won’t tarnish the Royals’ chances of dealing him for a decent return.
Especially Thursday’s defeat. Few, if any, teams will shy away from Barlow simply because Judge, who’s hit more homers than anyone else this season and is on pace to hit around 65, tagged him for one.
And although Friday’s loss was much uglier, contenders will know bad luck was certainly at play—Rizzo’s infield single was simply too slow for Lopez to get to in time, Garcia’s misplay of Donaldson’s sure double play grounder extended the inning, and Barlow may well have beaten Benintendi to first had the grass not been wet.
Those contenders will also know half of New York’s eighth-inning runs scored on a pitch that Barlow didn’t throw.
And if potential suitors are counting saves, they realize Barlow would have more than 16 (which isn’t a bad total with two months left in the season) if he pitched for a better team.
No, two losses won’t scare off contending teams. Barlow’s body of work is a known and valued commodity. If someone else wants him, and Kansas City likes the return, he could be gone by the time the trade deadline clock runs out at 5 p.m. CDT Tuesday.
There is, of course, the controlling factor, an element over which contenders seeking pitching help have no control.
The Royals may not want to trade Barlow.
We shall see.
The Yankees have treated Scott Barlow badly two nights in a row. But he’ll still have excellent value if Kansas City is shopping him.