With the 2017 non-tender deadline looming, the Tampa Bay Rays made their first trade of the Hot Stove period Thursday afternoon, dealing RHP Brad Boxberger to Arizona for RHP Curtis Taylor. Boxberger spent parts of the past four seasons with Tampa Bay after being acquired from the Padres.
In his first two seasons with Tampa Bay, Boxberger collected 178 strikeouts over 127-2/3 innings, while allowing just 88 hits in 132 appearances. Yet the right-hander had been unable to stay healthy over parts of the last two seasons, accumulating just 57 appearances (53-2/3 innings) while striking out 62. And even though he was an All-Star and the AL saves leader in 2015, Boxberger could not be trusted in high leverage situations since his 2016 return from the disabled list.
The Rays likely became wary of his return to form and chose to cut Boxberger free, while getting something in return, rather than pay a projected $1.9-million salary through arbitration. The contract savings could also be used on the open market to find a reliever that can compete for higher leverage opportunities.
As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote, the Rays also have several pitchers already slated to be in Triple-A or above that have mid to upper 90s velocity that can fill Boxberger’s role during the 2018 season, including Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo, Ian Gibaut, Jaime Schultz and Ryne Stanek. Certainly experience would be added, but in lesser leverage moments, the Rays have arms that can fill that role initially and then move up to greater challenges when ready.
Boxberger told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) he wasn’t surprised to be dealt, although he was “caught a little off guard” by the decision.
I think I’m going to have a good year no matter what team I’m with, Boxberger said. I’m looking to go in to Arizona and have the year I knew I was going to have in Tampa. Just to be able to come back fully healthy. I finished the year really strong so just kind of building off of that and just keeping the health in order to where it is right now and where I finished last year, feeling 100 percent with mechanics and health-wise and location and all that with all my pitches. So I’m definitely looking to keep doing that this coming year.
The 22 year-old Taylor, who was 3-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 2017, was limited to 62-1/3 innings and 13 starts due to a shoulder impingement with Class-A Kane County. Team representatives say he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2018 campaign. It is yet to be seen whether he will evolve into a starter or a reliever. The 6′ 6″ Canadian product throws strikes and his 98 mph could make for a solid acquisition in the near future.
The deal creates one new spot for other trade possibilities, as the Rays now have 39 players on the 40-man roster.