Boxberger back on Crew; inks one-year deal with club option
PHOENIX -- Veteran right-hander Brad Boxberger had to win a spot with the Brewers in 2021 and proved to be their most durable reliever by season's end. Now, he’s being rewarded with a return engagement.
Boxberger, 33, signed a one-year deal to return to the Brewers that includes a club option for 2023, marking Milwaukee’s first acquisition since the MLB lockout ended. Per ESPN, Boxberger will receive $2.5 million in 2022 and can earn another $550,000 in performance bonuses. He’s expected to reclaim the role he filled ably in ’21, working as a bridge to setup man Devin Williams and All-Star closer Josh Hader.
“A lot of teams were in the mix, but I definitely wanted to come back here to some familiarity and a winning ball club,” Boxberger said. “I don't have to learn another 300 people's names, which is nice. Obviously, the way [Brewers manager Craig] Counsell used me last year and knowing that he knows how to run a bullpen -- which is getting few and far between in the game from what I've experienced over the last couple of years -- is a huge help.”
In a team-high 71 appearances last season, Boxberger had a 3.34 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 64 2/3 innings. His 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings were his most since he was Arizona’s closer in 2018. Three years before that, Boxberger was Tampa Bay’s closer and led the American League with 41 saves.
It’s that experience of closing games that drew the Brewers to Boxberger prior to last season, when Milwaukee inked him to a Minor League deal that included an invitation to big league camp. He didn’t make the Opening Day roster but opted to remain with the organization and was called up to the Majors less than a week later. In his second Brewers appearance, Boxberger earned a save in extra innings at Wrigley Field. By the end of April, he had settled into a high-leverage role.
Both Boxberger and Hunter Strickland were free agents after the season, so the Brewers were known to be seeking additional relievers once the lockout lifted. Counsell expressed confidence that Boxberger can avoid the “good year/bad year” trend that sometimes follows relievers coming off successful seasons with a high workload.
"He was so consistent last year for us, and so I just think he organized our bullpen as much as anything,” Counsell said. "I mean, he worked hard last year. I don't think there's any question. I think toward the end of the season, we backed off that. So, look, the other thing about Box is he's really confident in how he prepares himself and how he goes about it. He's as efficient with throwing as a pitcher I've ever seen. He's cognizant of it. He's grown cognizant of it. And I think that'll help him."