- 2018 rating: 4.20
- 2017 rating: N/A
- 2018 salary: $1,850,000
- 2018 performance: 60 G, 53.1 IP, 4.39 ERA, 44 H, 30 R, 26 ER, 9 HR, 32 BB, 71 SO
- 2019 status: Arbitration-3 eligible (estimated $4,900,000)
On November 30th of 2017, the Diamondbacks sent relief pitching non-prospect, Curtis Taylor, to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for right-hander Brad Boxberger. The move represented a cost-saving measure for Tampa Bay. For Arizona, it brought in a solid reliever with both closing and setup man experience at a reasonable price. In fact, Boxberger had been an all-star closer fore Tampa Bay in 2015. He spent most of 2016 on the shelf due to injury, but bounced back nicely late in 2016, putting to rest most of the concerns as to his arm health.
The addition of Boxberger to a bullpen highlighted by Archie Bradley gave the Diamondbacks a solid 1-2 punch to solidify the back end. This combination was further bolstered by the addition of Yoshihisa Hirano three weeks later. The trio established themselves in spring as a trio to be reckoned with and Brad Boxberger won the role of team closer to start the season.
Through June 4th, Brad Boxberger was everything the Diamondbacks could have hoped for. He sported a 1.88 ERA with 13 saves and only one blown save. Unfortunately, in those first 59 team games, Boxberger had 22 appearances and 20.1 innings pitched. By this point, concerns had already been raised in numerous corners as to the workload that the lack of offense and lack of relief pitchers with options was creating for the primary bullpen of Hirano, Bradley, and Boxberger. All three were among the top used relievers in the game and all on pace for 65+ innings of work.
Sure enough, the fatigue started to show in Boxberger’s performance. Over the team’s next 62 games, Boxberger pitched in additional 23 contests, throwing 21.1 innings. Unfortunately, his performance was not nearly as sharp, as he posted a 5.06 ERA with 14 saves and four blown saves. His walks were also up and he became the regular victim of the long ball, surrendering six of his season-total of nine during that stretch. A deeper dive into Boxberger’s performance indicated he was simply no longer able to pitch effectively on back-to-back days. Eventually, as September rolled around and Boxberger continued to be inconsistent, the move was made to pull him from the closer’s position. He was slid back to working as a seventh and eighth inning arm. He wound up pitching in only nine games in the month of September and only amasses 6.1 innings of work in that time.
Perhaps the most notable contribution that Boxberger made to the 2018 season was his choice of his Player’s Weekend jersey, wherein he was able to choose the name to be placed on his jersey. Instead of going with his nickname the way the majority of players did, Boxberger went with the emoji jersey.
The choice created a bit of buzz throughout the baseball world for about a week. Unfortunately, the attention it brought happened to coincide with Boxbergers decline in performance, so it didn’t do him or the team any real favors.
A number of factors come into play for Boxberger’s 2019 future. With the team stating that it intends to trim payroll, combined with Boxberger’s fade in the second half of the season and his anticipated salary of nearly $5 million, Boxberger profiles as a prime candidate to be non-tendered for the 2019 season. That does not preclude Boxberger returning for the 2019 season though. It does remain possible that the Diamondbacks could be encouraged by Boxberger’s early-season results in 2018 and thus both non-tender him and then offer him a contract at a lower rate. Or, they could simply decide to move on from Boxberger, choosing instead to stick with the less expensive in-house options they already have. If he is non-tendered by the team, it also remains possible that there will be multiple suitors for Boxberger’s services, which would almost certainly spell the end of his time in Arizona.