Boxberger’s Return a Wise Decision
The Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday made their first free agent signing of the unlocked off-season by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal (with a club option) with relief pitcher Brad Boxberger. The contract guarantees the 2021 Brewers appearances leader a cool $2.5 million, according to a report by Jeff Passan of ESPN. Also included in the contract is up to $550 thousand more in performance bonuses.
Boxberger was an extremely useful piece in manager Craig Counsell’s bullpen last year, pitching to a 3.34 ERA in 64.2 IP across 71 games. Though you are a sum of all of your appearances, Boxberger posted a 1.70 ERA in his best 63.2 IP and 68 games.
The now 33-year-old, 10-year MLB veteran signed with Milwaukee ahead of the 2021 season and after his early performances in camp I penciled him in to break camp on the big league roster. Instead, one of the most reliable performers of last season was nearly lost as the Brewers cut him late in camp, fortunately re-signing him two days later. He would begin the season at the alternate training site, but quickly bubbled up to Milwaukee after some injuries late in camp.
Boxberger totaled a 1.1 bWAR, 128 ERA+, 79 ERA-, and a 1.3 WPA. He consistently took the ball in late and close situations, recording four saves and 23 holds. He was particularly effective against LHHs, holding them to a paltry .442 OPS.
Bottom line: With the two most recent National League Relievers of the Year in Josh Hader and Devin Williams expected to remain locking down the 8th and 9th innings for Counsell once again, having a strong sense of security in the 7th inning can only serve the Crew well to shorten games even further. And being able to slide Boxberger into the 8th if Hader or Williams need a day off (or even the 9th if they’re both down) is just what a manager wants.
This is a good move by David Stearns, even if Boxberger ends up struggling more in 2022 than he did a season ago. Reliability and availability are paramount to bullpen successes. Boxberger proved he had both of those qualities in 2021. It makes all the sense in the world to see what he’s got in 2022.