A combination of desperation and budgetary constraints has left the Red Sox facing some unpalatable choices in their bullpen, which means they'll be linked to every flawed, low-cost veteran who hits the market.
First up: Brad Boxberger.
The Royals just requested release waivers on the veteran righthander and assuming no one claims him, will be on the hook for the remainder of his $2.2 million salary.
The 31-year-old was a 2015 All-Star with Tampa, when he saved 41 games. That came one year after his breakout 2014, when he struck out 104 in just 64.2 innings as a setup man.
Since then, he has experienced mixed results, particularly from a command standpoint. He's 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 29 appearances this year, with 27 strikeouts and an unsightly 17 walks in 26.2 innings. His strikeout rate of 9.1 is the second-lowest of his eight-year career, while his 5.7 walks per nine are his third-highest.
That said, Boxberger averaged more than 12 strikeouts per nine in 2017 and 2018, and he saved 32 games for the Diamondbacks last year before being replaced as closer down the stretch. He has never thrown particularly hard, averaging 92-93 mph on his fastball for most of his career, but he has excelled on the strength of a deceptive delivery and outstanding changeup.
The Red Sox have specialized in re-working pitch mixes to turn marginal veterans into effective performers, whether it was encouraging Rich Hill to vary the shape of his curveball, nudging Nathan Eovaldi to feature his cutter, or convincing Heath Hembree to abandon his slider.
Boxberger's fastball velocity has fallen to a career-low 90.69 mph, per Brooks Baseball, and he's throwing it a career-low 47 percent of the time. Whereas once he went almost exclusively fastball-changeup, he is now throwing a slider nearly 20 percent of the time, and opponents are hitting .357 against it, compared to .236 vs. his fastball and .206 vs. his changeup.
Assuming no one claims him -- and it's unlikely anyone would pick up his money, given his struggles -- he'll likely sign a minor league deal and then earn a prorated portion of the veteran minimum ($555,000) if he reaches the majors.
Given the state of the Red Sox bullpen and the inability to patch holes internally, Boxberger may be worth a flyer as they scramble to find bargain solutions.
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