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D-backs acquire reliever Brad Boxberger from Rays

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger reacts after hitting New York Yankees' Todd Frazier with a pitch during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired reliever Brad Boxberger from the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in exchange for minor league right-hander Curtis Taylor.

The 29-year-old Boxberger led the American League and ranked fourth in the majors with 41 saves in 2015, when he was an All-Star. He only appeared in 30 games last season due to a right flexor strain. He posted a 3.38 ERA and struck out 40 in 29.1 innings of work.

Boxberger only pitched in 57 games in the last two seasons, but he still ranked among the AL leaders in several categories, including 10th in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.91).

With four years and 109 days of service time under his belt, Boxberger is now the 15th D-backs’ player eligible for a salary increase. MLB Trade Rumors projects Boxberger will make $1.9 million after his second go-around with the arbitration process.

Boxberger made $1.6 million this past season and is under team control until 2020.

The 22-year-old Taylor made 13 starts for Single-A Kane County last season. He finished the season with a 3.32 innings and 68 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched. He logged a 3.09 ERA in two seasons as a D-back.

Arizona selected Taylor in the fourth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.

How will Boxberger fit in?

The D-backs knew they likely had at least one or two holes to fill in the bullpen this winter, and Boxberger could be the first of many reinforcements.

Randall Delgado, J.J. Hoover, T.J. McFarland and Andrew Chafin are all eligible for arbitration, and the latter three have a good chance of being non-tendered. Plus, Jorge De La Rosa and David Hernandez are free agents.

On top of the flexor-strain that caused Boxberger to not make his 2017 debut until June 30, he has also dealt with groin and oblique injuries over the past two seasons.

But despite being plagued recently by injuries, the velocity on his fourseam fastball (92.68) and changeup (80.95), his primary off-speed pitch, did not take a huge dip compared to career season in 2015, according to Brooks Baseball.

However, Boxberger’s slider velocity declined two miles an hour from 87.69 mph in 2015 to 85.65 in 2017 and batters hit .444 off that pitch in 2017 compared to a .240 average off his change.

Boxberger’s ground ball rate declined from 47.9 percent in 2016 to 41.8 percent in 2017, which could be problematic when he pitches at Chase Field, but he only surrendered four home runs last year and the most he has given up in one season was nine in 2014 and 2015.

All of the above factors could make the D-backs think twice about considering Boxberger as a candidate to close.

Plus, the addition of Boxberger does rule out a reunion with 40-year-old free agent Fernando Rodney. Despite a rough April, Rodney still saved the third most games in the NL (39) and held the opposition scoreless in 39 of his 61 appearances.

The D-backs could also move Archie Bradley to the ninth inning after a stellar first season as the setup man. Bradley posted a 1.73 ERA in 73 innings pitched, did not allow a run in 53 of his 63 appearances and ranked tied for second among NL relievers with 25 holds.

If the D-backs decide to go with Rodney or Bradley in the ninth, Boxberger could at least be an option to pitch in the seventh or eighth.

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