Boxberger was released recently by the Royals, who’ll remain obligated for the remainder of his $2.2MM salary. Should the righty make it up to the majors in D.C., his new organization would pay him at the league-minimum rate, providing a bit of relief to the Kansas City club.
If it feels as if the relief-needy Nats are scooping up all the veteran relievers that have been cut loose by other teams … well, that’s not far from the truth. Fernando Rodney, Jonny Venters, and Javy Guerra all opened the season with other clubs before landing with the Nationals on minors deals and then filtering up to the big leagues. (The club also nabbed outfielder Gerardo Parra under similar circumstances.) Dan Jennings and George Kontos also opened the year elsewhere before joining the D.C. org, though both are at Triple-A at present.
This approach surely wasn’t the plan going in, but it proved necessary as the Nationals relief unit turned in calamitous results over the first few months of the season. It still doesn’t look like an inspiring assemblage of pitchers, but the D.C. pen has been a passable group more recently, allowing (though not exactly driving) a fantastic run in the standings that now has the organization set up for more substantial additions over the next three weeks.
Even as the Nats’ front office begins pursuing trade targets in earnest, they’ll seemingly continue building out the depth options. Boxberger certainly fits the same general mold as the numerous other pitchers who’ve been brought on board. A long-established MLB hurler, the 31-year-old merited a guaranteed contract after a tepid but still-useful 2018 season but then failed to hit his stride in the early going this year.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the new organization can get Boxberger back on track. Trouble is, he’s working with significantly less velocity than ever before; he’s down to 90.5 mph with his average heater this year after sitting just under 93 for his career. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Boxberger is going to offspeed offerings more than ever before, serving up his change on about one in three pitches and his slider on one of every five deliveries.
The results just haven’t been there, and neither have the peripherals. Boxberger is sitting on a 5.40 ERA over 26 2/3 innings, with 9.1 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9. On the positive side, his 11.3% swinging-strike rate isn’t far from his career average. And Statcast readings indicate that Boxberger has been a bit unfortunate. Opposing hitters have managed only 85.3 mph in average exit velocity. Boxberger is carrying a .311 xwOBA-against that lags the .329 wOBA that opposing hitters have produced.