Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Buy-Low Bullpen Trade Targets

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates potential target Boxberger
Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Brad Boxberger

Brad Boxberger is currently a late innings reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays.  He originally entered the league with the San Diego Padres when he was 24 years of age.  The righty was very good in San Diego, pitching to a 2.60 and a 2.86 earned run average over his first two seasons.  He also showed the ability to punch out batters averaging about 10 strikeouts per nine innings.  The Tampa Bay Rays noticed this and like the of bringing a young, controllable arm to their organization.  The Rays acquired the right-handed pitcher along with Logan Forsythe and two others in exchange for prospects at the time.

The Rays were excited about the potential of Boxberger and were looking at him as their future closing pitcher.  His first season with the Rays went really well.  Boxberger appeared in 63 games and posted a strong 2.37 earned run average along with a 0.83 WHIP.  The Rays were quite impressed and happy with their transaction.  They looked to have their future closer for many more years to come.

The following season the Rays were ready to hand the closing duties over to Boxberger. However, Boxberger did not adjust so well to closing.  Although he saved 41 games in 2015, he posted a career high 3.71 earned run average along with a 4.26 FIP.  He also blew six saves in 47 opportunities.  Boxberger however pitched so well in the first half of the season that the Rays stuck by him.  Entering 2016 the Rays traded Jake McGee.  McGee was the closer before Boxberger and then was the setup man after returning from injury. Many thought this would help Boxberger being that he did not have a proven closer behind him in the bullpen.

Well, this did not work out for the Rays.  In his first Spring Training game Boxberger tore a muscle in his thigh.  The now 28-year-old had to get surgery to repair the tear.  He ended up coming back on May 30.  His return did not last long.  Boxberger ended up straining his oblique in his first appearance back and went back on the disabled list.  In fact, this led to him having the worst year of his career thus far.  He finished the season appearing in just 27 games.  He also posted some pretty bad numbers.  His earned run average for the season was 4.81, with a 5.53 FIP, and a 1.72 WHIP.

All in all Boxberger had a pretty bad season.  However, this is the exact reason he could be and should be a target for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates love bounce back candidates.  Boxberger represents one.  Even wit ha down season he still has a career earned run average of 3.17, a WHIP of 1.26, and an impressive strikeout per nine innings ratio of 11.5.  He also posted a 48% ground-ball percentage which is a low-key stat that the Pittsburgh Pirates look for in relievers.  He still has three years of control also which is something the Bucs always target.  This deal would be very similar to when the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up Mark Melancon.  Melancon was a proven reliever, coming off a down year, with plenty of contractual control.  That worked out, and Boxberger would be a very buy-low, high reward pick up.