2021 MLB Free Agents: Brad Boxberger

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in a month, the 2021 MLB Free Agents market remains saturated. Coming off their first postseason appearance since 2003 and winning season since 2009, the Marlins are looking to strengthen their bullpen.

Miami declined Brandon Kintzler‘s $4M option and Boxberger decided to test the free-agent waters. The departure of two primary relievers, Brandon Kintzler, and Brad Boxberger, leaves a glaring need on the backend. The Marlins’ bullpen had a 5.50 ERA last season, the fifth-worst in baseball. Miami’s early offseason bullpen moves reinforce Ng’s commitment to improving late-inning reliability. In a Zoom call, Ng said “I will tell you we have a handful of relievers that we have targeted on the free-agent market. Hopefully, a couple of those come to fruition. We’ll see.”

In 2015, Boxberger was an All-Star for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has been a reliable setup man for his career despite a poor 2019. This lead to Boxberger signing a minor-league deal with an MLB spring training invite. He spent 2020 in Miami, where he posted a 3.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings. Boxberger’s average spin rate improved. If Brad can keep his walks down, he is a good value. His veteran leadership is an intangible Ng should consider. The Marlins have a handful of young arms. It’s unclear why Boxberger has not spoken with Miami management.

2021 MLB Free Agents: Player Profile

Brad Boxberger began the 2019 season with Kansas City, pitching in 29 games and going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and one save. He was released by Kansas City on July 1st and signed by Washington on July 12th. He pitched in eight games for Double-A Harrisburg, going 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA. Released by Washington on August 4th and signed by Cincinnati on August 6th. He then pitched in five games for Triple-A Louisville, going 1-1 with an 11.81 ERA. He was released by Cincinnati on August 23rd.

In 2018, Boxberger registered 32 saves in his only season with Arizona, going 3-7 with a 4.39 ERA (26 ER in 53.1 IP) and 71 strikeouts (11.89 K/9). His save total ranked fourth in the National League, while his strikeout rate was 10th among NL relievers (min. 150 batters faced). He was one of five pitchers in the Majors with 30+ saves and a strikeout rate of at least 11.5.

Ng has been consistent in her messaging of Miami’s bullpen needs. The reshuffle of their bullpen deck has emphasized their focus on adding arm talent with high ceilings as opposed to paying for similar talent with less upside. MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola makes note of Miami’s focus on higher swing and miss rates. The organization may seek to convert a prospect such as Jordan Holloway to the bullpen full time, where he could be groomed to close.

Marlins Pitching Acquisitions

Ng’s first official move as GM involved acquiring submarine-throwing right-hander Adam Cimber from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Cimber has made 152 career appearances over three MLB seasons and has a 3.89 ERA with 104 strikeouts against 38 walks in 136 1/3 innings of work.

In last week’s Rule 5 Draft, the Marlins selected right-hander Paul Campbell from the Rays and traded with the D-backs for righty Zach Pop. Arizona chose Pop with the sixth pick in the Rule 5 Draft to flip him to Miami for a player to be named. Yimi Garcia projects to close the ninth inning, but the depth is key to returning to the playoffs.  The Marlins have inked left-hander Ross Detwiler to a deal. Detwiler pitched out of the White Sox bullpen in 2020. He has experience as a starter as well.

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