Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd will undergo surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his left forearm, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including Jason Beck of MLB.com). The team didn’t provide any specific timetable for his recovery, but they’re “hopeful” he’ll be able to pitch at some point in 2022.
It’s a disappointing but not wholly unexpected development. Boyd missed two and a half months earlier this season because of triceps discomfort, returning in late August. He made just two starts before landing back on the shelf due to recurring elbow soreness, and the team sent him to visit a specialist a couple weeks ago.
The small silver lining is that the repair which Boyd will undergo is a less extensive procedure than a full Tommy John surgery. That offers some hope he’ll make it back onto a mound next year, but he’s almost certainly going to miss a good portion of the upcoming season.
It’s possible the surgery brings a premature end to Boyd’s six-plus year tenure in Detroit. The 30-year-old is scheduled to go through the arbitration process for a third and final time this offseason. Were the Tigers to tender him a contract, he’d be due a raise on this season’s $6.5MM salary before reaching free agency at the end of the 2022 campaign. Now that he’s seemingly in line to miss much of next year, Boyd’s likely to be let go a year early.
Tigers GM Al Avila told reporters (including Evan Woodbery of MLive) the club isn’t ruling out the possibility of Boyd pitching there moving forward. That’d most likely come in the form of a lower cost, incentive-laden free agent deal after a non-tender. But a non-tender would give Boyd the opportunity to explore inquiries from other teams.
If this does wind up marking the end of Boyd’s time with the Tigers, it’d conclude a generally up-and-down tenure. Acquired from the Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline as part of the David Price deal, Boyd almost immediately stepped into the Tigers’ rotation. He’s remained a member of the starting staff ever since, settling in as a reliable back-end innings eater for the first few years.
That changed in 2019, when Boyd leaned more heavily on his four-seam fastball at the expense of his sinker and saw a huge uptick in whiffs. Through the end of July that year, he owned a 3.94 ERA with an elite 32.5% strikeout rate across 132 1/3 innings. That dramatically improved performance — coupled with the Tigers’ continued rebuild — made Boyd one of the hottest names on the summer trade market.
Ultimately, Detroit made the decision to hold onto Boyd past the deadline. That proved to be a misstep in retrospect. He struggled down the stretch that season before a very poor showing in last year’s shortened campaign.
Detroit continued to stick by Boyd, though, and he rewarded their faith with a bounceback showing in 2021. The huge strikeout stuff Boyd showed in that 2019 season has fallen all the way back to his early-career levels, but Boyd tamped down on his prior home run troubles early this season en route to a career-low 3.89 ERA in fifteen starts.