The Padres, Cubs, Red Sox and Astros are reportedly among teams with interest in breakout Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd as the July 31 trade deadline creeps closer. Add the Dodgers, Braves and Rays to the clubs involved in the derby, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
The 28-year-old Boyd has evolved from average starter to potential front-end arm since the season began, and with the Tigers in a rebuild, they may decide to cash him in this month. Boyd’s 3.87 ERA over 107 innings isn’t befitting of an ace, but he has managed a more impressive 3.56 FIP/3.34 xFIP while emerging as one of the majors’ preeminent strikeout artists. With a sky-high 11.94 K/9 against a measly 1.68 BB/9, Boyd ranks top 10 among starters in those categories and top five in K/BB ratio (1.68).
Home runs have recently haunted Boyd, who has allowed at least two in three straight outings and a total of 10 in six starts since the beginning of June. But Boyd’s sudden gopher balls issues don’t look as if they’ll be enough to dampen teams’ enthusiasm in the affordable, controllable hurler. His $2.6MM salary this season and three remaining years of arbitration eligibility would make him a long-term piece for an acquiring team, though they’ll also help drive up Detroit’s asking price. The Tigers are holding out for a lofty return for Boyd, as you’d expect, with McCosky reporting they initially sought a major league-ready hitter and one or more “top” prospects at or above the Double-A level.
For the Dodgers, Boyd would add to a team that already seems to have everything. The back-to-back National League pennant winners own the majors’ best record (60-32) thanks in part to their starting staff. Potential Cy Young candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have all been good to brilliant, while Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling have performed well in complementary roles. The same applies to Rich Hill, though he has been on the injured list since June 20 with a left flexor tendon strain and, having gone on the 60-day IL, won’t return until at least late August. It’s also worth noting this could be the last season in Los Angeles for Hill, a soon-to-be free agent who’s pushing 40, so Boyd would fit nicely in his spot in the team’s rotation in 2020.
The Braves are the NL’s second-ranked team at 54-37, and there’s an obvious connection between their front office and Boyd. General manager Alex Anthopoulos held the same position in Toronto when the Blue Jays spent a sixth-round pick on Boyd in 2013. Boyd debuted up north in 2015, Anthopoulos’ last year as Toronto’s GM, but the championship-contending club traded him that July to the Tigers to acquire ace David Price.
Anthopoulos fell short of his World Series goal four years ago, but his current employer has a realistic chance to vie for a title this season. The Braves, though, do have needs in their rotation even after signing Dallas Keuchel to a one-year, $13MM contract in June. Keuchel and rookie sensation Mike Soroka are locked into spots. After that, while Julio Teheran has logged a 3.75 ERA in 100 2/3 innings, it’s much harder to trust his shaky peripherals. Max Fried’s secondary numbers are better than Teheran’s, but he has been inconsistent of late. Meanwhile, 2018 No. 1 starter Mike Foltynewicz got off to a miserable start before the team demoted him to the minors June 23, and hasn’t come back since. Kevin Gausman, likewise, hasn’t taken the mound for the Braves in weeks – he went to the IL on June 11 with a plantar fasciitis in his right foot – and has joined Foltynewicz in struggling mightily when he has started this year.
Tampa Bay isn’t the mortal playoff lock LA and Atlanta appear to be in the NL, but the Rays are very much in the AL hunt. The club’s 52-39, a half-game up on its league’s No. 1 wild-card spot and 6 1/2 behind the AL East-leading Yankees. Boyd, who’s easily affordable for the low-budget Rays, would join Cy Young possibility Charlie Morton, reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Yonny Chirinos to give the opener-using team four traditional starters. The team’s also continuing to await the return of Tyler Glasnow, who was enjoying what looked like a breakthrough campaign before forearm troubles forced him to the shelf May 10. Glasnow still believes he’ll factor in again this season even after having suffered setbacks, but the Rays may not be able to bank on that occurring.