Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd will be one of the most coveted players available leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, owing to his performance and affordable team control. Contenders aplenty will call the Tigers about Boyd in the next few weeks, if they haven’t already. Count AL West-leading Houston among the clubs interested in the 28-year-old, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports. To this point, though, the Astros have not shown a willingness to trade high-end outfield prospect Kyle Tucker for Boyd, according to Morosi.
Tucker would give the offensively challenged Tigers a much-needed player to build around in the field. Their interest in Tucker goes back multiple years, Morosi notes, as the Tigers tried to acquire him from the Astros when the teams made a deal around right-handed ace Justin Verlander late in the 2017 season. Almost two full years later, Tucker remains a potential star in the making for the Astros. MLB.com ranks the 22-year-old as the game’s 10th-best prospect and notes he has high-average, 25-home run upside. Tucker has already slammed 24 homers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this year, moving past a slow start to log a .274/.348/.606 line (123 wRC+) in 330 plate appearances with Triple-A Round Rock.
Although Tucker posted disastrous production in his 72 major league-PA debut a year ago, it’s clear the Astros aren’t going to let that define him. If the team keeps Tucker, he could follow another excellent Astros prospect, slugger Yordan Alvarez, as an in-season difference-maker in 2019 or perhaps become a regular next year.
Speaking of 2020, the Astros are set to head into then with questions in their rotation. Verlander and Brad Peacock will be back, Lance McCullers Jr. should return from 2018 Tommy John surgery, and any of the Astros’ starting prospects might step up to claim a rotation spot. Gerrit Cole will have a chance to leave for a mega-deal in free agency, however, and Wade Miley and Collin McHugh could also depart. Boyd would help cover for their losses, and he’d do so at an affordable price. He’ll make his second of four potential trips through arbitration during the upcoming winter, when he’ll earn a raise over his relatively negligible $2.6MM salary.
While Boyd could make a long-term impact for the Astros, they could also use a complement now to slot in with Verlander and Cole atop their rotation. Boyd arguably didn’t look up to the task in June when he allowed 19 earned runs and 10 homers in a five-start, 29-inning stretch. He still put up 41 strikeouts against five walks during that span, though, and boasts a more-than-respectable 3.72 ERA/3.57 FIP through 101 2/3 frames this season. Furthermore, with a stunning 11.42 K/9 against 1.77 BB/9, Boyd’s K/BB ratio ranks fifth among starters.
The Tigers are within reason to want a prospect-driven haul for Boyd, and the Astros just may be the ones who give it to them sometime this month. However, if Detroit’s dead set on getting Tucker as part of a Boyd package, it appears the club will have to look elsewhere.