Cubs agree to one-year deal with reliever Boxberger

December 15th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager David Ross values having veteran arms in the bullpen to help navigate the late innings. Over the past few years, Chicago has done well at identifying short-term pieces to fit that mold.

On Thursday, the Cubs reeled in their latest experienced late-inning option for Ross, agreeing to a one-year contract with righty worth $2.8 million guaranteed. The deal will pay Boxberger $2 million in '23, and includes a $5 million mutual option (or $800,000 buyout) for '24. The reliever joins a pitching group with a solid track record of making the most of similar value signings.

"We've had a lot of success with these guys," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at the Winter Meetings last week. "We're not the only team that does that, but it's certainly a big part of the game now, trying to talk to pitchers about, like, 'Here's maybe something we can tweak.'"

Recent examples of short-term relief deals from the Cubs include names like Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Chris Martin, David Robertson and Mychal Givens. Another common thread with that group is each pitcher was involved in a Trade Deadline deal as the rebuilding Cubs worked to enhance their farm system.

The hope for the Cubs in '23 would be that the Trade Deadline is used to boost the MLB team -- rather than flipping pieces away. And in Boxberger, Chicago has an established arm that should help upgrade a bullpen that is short on experience overall.

As things stand, Chicago's relief corps does not have a defined closer, but has a couple late-inning possibilities in righty Rowan Wick and lefty Brandon Hughes. Arms such as Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson and Adrian Sampson serve as rotation depth, but could also be in line for multi-inning relief roles.

The Brewers declined a $3 million club option to retain the 34-year-old Boxberger, opting instead to pay a $750,000 buyout. That decision came after the right-hander logged at least 70 appearances in each of the past two campaigns.

Last year, Boxberger posted a 2.95 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 27 walks in 64 innings for Milwaukee. He was in the 90th percentile in the Majors for average exit velocity (86.4 mph), per Statcast, while leaning on a three-pitch combination of four-seamers (55%), changeups (22.6%) and sliders (22.5%).

Boxberger posted solid splits against righties (.203 average and .626 OPS) and lefties (.248 average and .677 OPS) last year, but he has performed better against lefty batters (.198/.619) than righties (.230/.725) for his career. In parts of 11 years, he has a 3.44 ERA and 82 saves and a 29.1% strikeout rate in 484 games.