Arizona Diamondbacks Non-Tender Trio And They’re Better Already

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 04: Pitcher Shelby Miller
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 04: Pitcher Shelby Miller /

The non-tender deadline is tonight, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have officially non-tendered three players off their 40-man roster: Shelby Miller, Brad Boxberger and Chris Owings.

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced (via Twitter) the decision to non-tender starting pitcher Shelby Miller, closer Brad Boxberger and utility man Chris Owings. The Diamondbacks 40-man roster now stands at 35.

Each of these non-tenders played a significant role in recent years, though not always in a positive sense. By non-tendering the trio, the Diamondbacks save an estimated $13.4MM from their 2019 payroll. Presumably, this means other borderline candidates like John Ryan Murphy, T.J. McFarland and Matt Andriese will return for 2019.

Boxberger was the most significant contributor for the 2018 team as he closed games for a better part of the season, recording 32 saves in 40 opportunities. The gaudy save number aside, it was a rough season for Boxberger, evidenced by 8 blown saves and seven losses.

Overall, Boxberger, 30, finished the year with a 3-7 record, 4.39 ERA (4.55 FIP) in 60 appearances spanning 53 1/3 innings (-0.7 rWAR). He can still get a swing and miss (12.0 K/9), but his command was fluky (5.4 BB/9).

It will be interesting to track Boxberger in free agency. Traditionally, players with closing experience are priced at a premium, but with changing mores in baseball’s bullpen hierarchy, a non-elite closer like Boxberger could be valued less (as saves are devalued). Conversely, he could see his value rise with the postseason importance of multiple high-powered bullpen arms.

Shelby Miller‘s ignominious tenure in Arizona began with plenty of fanfare after he was acquired in December of 2015. Miller was coming off a season in which he actually led the league in losses, but despite the 6-17 record in Atlanta, 2015 was actually the third straight solid campaign for the then- 24-year-old.

Arizona gave up quite the haul, sending former #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, starting center fielder Ender Inciarte and prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves in exchange for Miller and prospect Gabe Speier.

While the deal helped propel Atlanta to contention in the NL East, it was a disaster for the Diamondbacks. In three years in the desert, Miller compiled a 5-18 record with a 6.35 ERA in 28 starts that totaled just 139 innings. Miller, like Boxberger, was projected to earn $4.9MM in 2019, far more than the Diamondbacks were willing to pay to hold onto either right-hander.

Miller will make an interesting reclamation project somewhere, but with such lofty expectations, he was unlikely to ever recover in Arizona. The acquisition of Miller will certainly go down as one of the worst trades in Diamondbacks history (which maybe we’ll cover in a post soon!).

Chris Owings, 27, was at times a useful player for the Diamondbacks, but his projected arbitrations earnings of $3.6MM was more than the Arizona brass felt comfortable paying.

Owings greatest attribute was the ability to play anywhere on the diamond. Unfortunately, he never hit well enough to capitalize on that versatility. Since making his debut in Arizona as a 21-year-old, Owings accrued a career line of .250/.291/.376, worth just 3.2 rWAR.

All three players were coming into their final year of arbitration eligibility. They’ll hit the suddenly-flooded open market with the hopes of catching on elsewhere.

Boxberger is sure to get a major-league deal somewhere, while Miller and Owings are more borderline cases. At minimum they will have the opportunity to prove themselves in a major-league camp, but a roster spot is not automatic.

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The trio combined for a -2.0 rWAR for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018, making the decision to non-tender an easy one. The Diamondbacks are looking better already.