RHP Tyson Miller has been claimed off waivers from Texas.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 10, 2022
The Brewers have declined the club option on RHP Brad Boxberger. pic.twitter.com/A1f8FerJCb
At first glance, it may seem odd that the Brewers bought out Boxberger’s affordable $3 million option after he was their most durable reliever for two years in a row. The veteran appeared in 71 games in 2021 and 70 games in 2022, posting a combined 3.15 ERA and 3.61 FIP with a strong 28.3% strikeout rate in that span.
However, there are a couple of warning signs that a decline may be in store for Boxberger.
While his strikeout rate was still a solid 25.4% in 2022, that represented a dropoff from his 31.2% mark the previous season. More concerningly, Boxberger’s ability to induce swings and misses took a hit. His swinging strike rate decreased from 12.9% to a career-worst 9.5%, and his whiff rate fell from 31.9% to 24.4%.
Boxberger also lost nearly a full mile-per-hour of velocity on his fastball. That trend is unlikely to reverse as he enters his age-35 season.
Finally, the past two seasons have been the only times in Boxberger’s career in which he has appeared in at least 70 games. Entering his mid-30s on the heels of his heaviest workload could be a red flag.
Boxberger could still be a quality middle reliever for another season, but the Brewers determined that his projected performance is not worth $3 million next season compared to the market value for relievers.
This was confirmed when Boxberger went unclaimed on waivers before the Brewers cut him loose.
Brewers GM Matt Arnold on the Boxberger move: "Box did a great job for us. He was exposed to waivers and did not get claimed, which gave us information that the market did not value him at the level of the option."— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) November 10, 2022
Matt Arnold left open the possibility of re-upping with Boxberger on a lesser deal, but it appears the Brewers believe they already experienced his best remaining seasons and are content to use that money elsewhere.
Miller debuted with the Cubs in 2020 before resurfacing with the Rangers in 2022. He has appeared in six career big-league games, allowing 17 runs in 15 2⁄3 innings. This year, he posted a 4.52 ERA and 4.88 FIP as a swingman with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.
Statcast classifies Miller’s primary fastball as a four-seamer, and scouting reports officially label it as such, but pitch movement metrics and the eye test indicate that it more closely resembles a cutter.
Miller sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his cutting fastball, but it plays up due to his delivery. He stands 6-foot-4 and generates elite extension, allowing him to release the ball closer to home plate than most pitchers. His high sidearm release point—which he lowered by several inches in 2022—also adds deception.
The Brewers will likely encourage Miller to follow in the footsteps of Corbin Burnes and relief prospect Cam Robinson, both of whom reworked their cutting fastballs into full-on cutters as their primary pitch.
Miller also features a sinker, slider, changeup, and curveball. His slider and changeup have plus horizontal movement, which would enable them to pair well with a cutter.
Arnold indicated that the Brewers are open to using Miller as a starter or in relief.
Matt Arnold says Brewers are open to newly-acquired Tyson Miller starting or relieving. He mentioned “a combination of stuff and athleticism.”— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) November 10, 2022
“Tyson is an arm we have evaluated for a while and his ability caught the attention of our staff when he became potentially available.”
Miller takes Boxberger’s spot on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, which remains at 34 players.