5:03pm: The Cubs have officially announced the signing.
11:03am: Boxberger will be paid a $2MM salary for the 2023 season, and his contract contains a $5MM mutual option with an $800K buyout, MLBTR has learned.
10:31am: The Cubs have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent righty Brad Boxberger, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter thread). The Paragon Sports International client will be guaranteed $2.8MM on the deal.
Boxberger, 34, spent the past two seasons with the Brewers, who paid a $750K buyout on the veteran reliever rather than exercise a $3MM club option. At a combined $3.55MM between that buyout and the new Cubs deal, Boxberger will come out ahead and wind up earning more than if the Brewers had simply picked up the option.
Boxberger’s career looked to have hit a snag following a tough stretch in 2018-19 when he posted a combined 4.73 ERA and walked 13.8% of his opponents between the D-backs and Royals. That led to a minor league deal with the Marlins for the 2020 season, and he’s righted the ship nicely in the three years since. In that time, Boxberger carries a combined 3.13 ERA in 146 2/3 innings, and he’s piled up 57 holds and five saves along the way.
For the Brewers, Boxberger made 70 and 71 appearances across the past two seasons, pitching in 64 and 64 2/3 innings. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball (93.1 mph average) but nonetheless managed a 31.2% strikeout rate in 2021 — although that mark dipped to a 25.4% in 2022 (still better than the league average). Boxberger relied heavily on called strikes over missed bats, however, as his 21.2% called-strike rate was the third-highest among 152 qualified relievers, while his 9.5% swinging-strike rate ranked as the 14th-lowest.
Given those trends, it’s fair to wonder whether further regression in terms of strikeout rate could be on the horizon, but even if that’s the case, Boxberger has been strong in terms of limiting hard contact over the past several seasons — particularly in 2022. Last year’s 86.4 mph average exit velocity (90th percentile) and 33.9% hard-hit rate (81st percentile) both ranked quite well among MLB pitchers, per Statcast.
The Cubs will be Boxberger’s seventh big league franchise, and he’ll slot into what was otherwise a generally inexperienced bullpen. Prior to this deal right-hander Rowan Wick was the only reliever on the Cubs’ roster who has even three years of Major League service time. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Cubs to further pursue veteran additions, though if this signing and the Cubs’ recent history tells us anything, such additions could fall into a similar price range.
Chicago’s deal with Boxberger continues the team’s recent trend of prioritizing low-cost, one-year bullpen pickups rather than committing significant money to the bullpen. In the past three years, the Cubs have eschewed more prominent bullpen targets and and signed Mychal Givens ($5MM), David Robertson ($3.5MM), Daniel Norris ($1.75MM), Chris Martin ($2.5MM), Ryan Tepera ($800K), Brandon Workman ($3MM), Trevor Williams ($2.5MM), Dan Winkler ($750K) and Jonathan Holder ($750K) to one-year contracts. To the team’s credit, they’ve had some rather notable successes (Robertson, Martin, Tepera in particular), and even the deals that have missed haven’t really stung, given the relatively minimal nature of the guarantees.
On the other side of the coin, relying on one-year deals of this nature creates an annual need to patch together a bullpen in piecemeal fashion while simultaneously shining a light on some of the team’s struggles in developing bullpen arms who can be affordably controlled for years at a time. Righty Scott Effross was a notable exception, and the Cubs can hardly be faulted for flipping five years of control over him to the Yankees in a deadline trade for well-regarded prospect Hayden Wesneski, but in an ideal setting the Cubs wouldn’t need to set out into free agency in search of a handful of one-year bullpen stopgaps each winter.
This guy has an underrated career honestly
Yes, and a underrated last name to.
His name might sound like a cardboard sandwich, but the man can pitch.
Ya, I was sad to see the Brewers decline his option. He had been a major asset for them.
Anyone who has had a good named after him has achieved greatness. ….. the Boxburger! Never had one though.
Look at teams he’s pitched for. That’s largely why he’s underrated. Did used to pitch in al east tho, albeit on Tampa
I hate autocorrect sometimes, my comment should obviously read, “food” not “good”.
That’s it autocorrect! You and me – outside, right now!
Only 2.8 mill? He’s a solid piece.
For Love of the Game
Too many walks to be a late inning guy, but pretty solid for just $2.8 mill. Flip him for a prospect at the trade deadline. Good investment.
He’s been a lot better with the walks over the past 3 years than he was earlier in his career. Granted, he moved from “disastrously high” to “passable” but still…improvement nonetheless.
Also, his advanced metrics over the past few years make the case that he was legitimately good. Moving to a slightly more pitcher friendly park with a slightly better outfield group in Chicago should help keep that going.
All in all, this seems like a sneaky good pickup. Probably won’t be a league leader or anything but should fit in nicely to the committee-style bullpen the Cubs have going right now.
What a joke of an organization this has become!
Signing solid relievers for cheap! What a joke!
There’s plenty to be critical about, but this article isn’t the place. Good pitcher. Reasonable investment
Just a piece to flip at the trade deadline
Please, no. Please, please, please, no.
What’s wrong, my child? for $2.8 mil, his numbers don’t look half bad.
I used to actively cheer when the Brewers brought him into the game, because he was our best chance at scoring runs against their bullpen.
Numbers don’t look bad. Maybe he can teach the younger guys something. Still not in love with signing guys to “flip” when we should be contending sooner than later.
He was always in trouble in the 2nd half last year. Stuff is declining. He is a gritty veteran, no doubt, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall off the proverbial cliff soon. There’s a reason teams weren’t lining up in this crazy market.
No way we contend this year. As bad as the division is, we are behind both the Cardinals and Brewers. That’s not going to cut it.
DeGrom Texas Ranger
Christmas Gift box
DeGrom Texas Ranger
Texas should have had him. He is the steal of the Year at the rate he is getting relative to others.
He’s another one with whom I’m confounded that so many more teams in need of pitching weren’t inquiring on. He’s got to be one of the most affordable people on the market, particularly for his performance levels.
Solid middle reliever at this point in his career. Nice signing by the Cubs. A slew of reliever signings should be upcoming, seems like most teams have a bullpen issue, but for the most part addressed other needs first.
Hard to argue their success over the past couple years at picking the right relievers has to be near the top of baseball. Can’t argue the success that Robertson, Martin, Givens, Tepera, Kimbrel, Chafin in their short stints with the team.
Flipped them all for some depth pieces and prospects.
And heck, they even made an MVP candidate out of Tepera. 😉
@mike127 Very good point, mike. getting solid pieces for veteran relievers. pretty smart strategy.
Speaking of Chafin…… as I recall he had an excellent year. Did I miss something because a door lefty ‘pen option is typically a valuable piece. I don’t recall seeing any real engagement by any teams yet.
I keep hoping the Cubs bring back Givens and Chafin. Nice pieces at reasonable rates. Would let some other pieces work some more in AAA like Horn, Wicks, Herz, Jensen and Little. With them being ready for a phone call. The Iowa roster right now looks pretty barren but for a change the Cubs won’t have to sign a bunch of reclamation projects to fill the roster. They actually have prospects to put there. I’m extremely interested for spring to see who ends up at what level. Could be revealing. But Boxberger is a solid add. The Cubs will go as far as their pitching and defense will take them.
Keep shoring up the bullpen! Good grab.
Season ticket holders must be mad because they will not playing in November
Try hard Cubs fan 2
Hopefully he pitches well so Jed can trade him in July for a A ball lottery ticket
Signed to be flipped at the trading deadline for some over projectable 19 year old.
Maybe a solid signing, but dang, when are the Cubbies going to open up that wallet, didn’t they say they were going to be big spenders….guess they shelled out cashola for Bellinger and Taillon, but those just don’t seem like the “it” signings
Another miss for Bloom… i hope Waca/Eovaldi come back! I be ok if they traded Devers for 2 good prospects and add Drury and Tuner
This one belongs to the Reds
Nice bullpen piece. Cincy could have used him. I have been saying being a small market they need to build the bullpen to help their stud young starters. Instead they’ll continue to watch their youngsters lose confidence because the bullpen keeps blowing their games.
Reliever contracts never make sense. A guy like this makes 2m but Rafael Montero makes so much more. Last year a guy like Colin McHue makes very little but Kenley Jansen continually makes 16 mil/year. Who comes up with this stuff? Considering they get generally short contracts I gotta believe they aren’t taking a discount (maybe McHue took a slight discount since Braves won WS that year but couldn’t be much). Many more examples of these underrated relievers and the inflated contracts to overrated ones. I’m not even saying Jansen isn’t worth it but why the huge differences?
For instance, considering he’s had a good career I could easily see someone taking a chance on him for 2m even if he were coming off Tommy John surgery or something. But he’s not. So I don’t get it. He’s surely worth at least 4m. Perhaps there are incentives
As a bonified closer we should expect that Kenley Jansen would make significantly more than other relievers. Guys like Montero and Suarez got their higher pay by re-signing with their teams, so their organizations obviously valued them high, we have no idea what they wouid have gotten if they signed elsewhere
I agree with the “old school” crowd more than many people today do but the only reason most pitchers don’t get a chance to close is because it would raise their arbitration salaries. The closer is almost always in with a lead. Generally the guy pitching the 6th or 7th is in more of a pressure situation than the closer. Being a closer is vastly overrated. Some people struggle at it but it’s not because it’s harder it’s in their mind. Kenley Jansen is hardly even above average as a reliever at this point. He was one of the worst relievers on the Braves last year. He was surely no better than 4th or 5th in their pen. Why is it that a guy like McHue who generally comes in either in a situation with runners on or a nearly tie game considered under less pressure than a guy who usually starts an inning with a 2 or more run lead?
The only thing I can think of in response to your question is that the pitcher that comes in with men on in the 6th inning knows ( whether he knows it or not) that if he blows it his team still has a shot at coming back – the closer does not have that mindset. Weak argument I know but all I could come up with lol
I think that can sometimes play a part. I think it’s also because some players just get a little anxious when the crowd is on their feet making noise every pitch. Also if you do good there is no reward but if you do bad there is a consequence (getting dropped to a “lesser” role. I still think it’s not that big of a deal tho.
I do think it’s gotta be the worst feeling when you blow a save and you walk off the mound having lost. Especially if you did it recently and are in a tough spot again. Baseball is largely mental. I love devil’s advocate. I think McHue has the hardest type of job, coming in with runners on a lot in a close game. Managers are much more likely to bring the 7th inning guy in during the 6th than bring the closer in in the 8th, especially if they were, like McHue, once a starter/long reliever
Time to bring back the Sheriff.
Best players day jersey ever
Pretty decent deal, no real risk
As much as Hoyer’s “intelligent spending” credo has looked like a lame excuse to not spend big when needed (it is), his relief philosophy of not overpaying has actually been effective. But this year especially, that won’t work anywhere else on the field.
Cubs look like about an 80 win team right now, give or take a couple of wins either way. Where’s that big spending that Ricketts promised? I forgot – he has a GM that kisses his butt.
I know Cubs fans are notorious for getting pissed at the Cubs FO for lack of spending but damn. So, negativity from cub fans here. Twitter is even worse. The FO said they would spend. They haven’t spent big as most cubs fans expected but they never said how much they’d spend. They spending money.
If he fails to secure a roster spot to open the season,
Brad will most likely be found employed at a fast food joint
so fans will be able to see:
Boxberger BOX BURGERS:
Pretty nice deal for a guy who used to box burgers.
Back to article: much needed signing, BP needed help. Now hope they trade for a Catcher. They already have a very good SS.
What? Seriously, I thought this guy’s pitching arm had already fallen off !!!!! Back from the dead ! No way he can possibly be worth this kind of money….. must have something on somebody to get this kind of deal….. 34….. please!
Had a sub 3 ERA in 70 games last year for MIL.
Jed Hoyer is so predictable. He’s low balling Dansby as I type this.