The Tigers are not expected to tender a contract to veteran starter Matthew Boyd, per a report from Chris McCosky of Detroit News. Boyd, who’s pitched for the Tigers in each of the last seven seasons and twice taken the ball on Opening Day, will become a free agent once the decision is made official. Were Boyd healthy, the Tigers may have made a different decision, but he had flexor tendon surgery in September and is expected to be out until at least June.
Since arriving from the Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline as part of a package that sent David Price to Toronto, Boyd has been a roughly league-average starter (95 ERA+ since 2016), serving as a fairly steady innings-eater before spikes in his walk and home run rates saw him post his worst numbers since his rookie season in the small sample of the 2020 season. He actually posted a career-best 3.89 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 2021, but a June triceps strain landed him on the IL for more than two months before a September forearm injury ended his season after 78 2/3 innings.
For his career, the lefty sports a 4.96 ERA (4.69 FIP) across 784 1/3 big-league innings. Entering his age-31 season in 2022, he’ll most likely look to catch on with a team in search of a veteran back-end rotation arm. Given his recent injury history, it’s possible some teams will see Boyd as a reliever, though 145 of his 149 career games have been starts, and he hasn’t appeared in relief since 2017.
Even in spite of an injury that will keep him out for at least a third of the season, Boyd is likely a safe bet for a major league deal, though he’s unlikely to approach the $6.5MM salary he received in 2021. MLBTR projected that Detroit would have been on the hook for $7.3MM had they tendered Boyd a contract for his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility. With the near-certainty of the Dec. 2 lockout deadline approaching, the southpaw will have very little time to catch on with a new team before transactions stop, though he may choose to wait in an attempt to show teams a relatively clean bill of health.
The Tigers face a handful of non-tender decisions beyond Boyd. McCosky mentions 2018 All-Star Joe Jimenez (slated to make $1.8MM according to MLBTR projections) and the aging but serviceable Jose Cisnero (projected at $1.9MM), both of whom have some upside; Jimenez has swing-and-miss stuff but has struggled with command (his BB% spiked to 16.7% in 2021), while Cisnero has had considerably more success over the last two seasons despite also sporting an above-average walk rate. Still, neither of these salaries would have nearly the impact on the bottom line as Boyd’s.
Of course, the financial impact of the Tigers’ non-tender decisions pales in comparison to their expected commitments on the free agent market. Since signing Eduardo Rodriguez to a market-setting five-year, $77MM deal in mid-November, the Tigers have been linked many of the biggest names on the market, including Carlos Correa (MLBTR link), Marcus Semien (link; since reached an agreement with the Rangers), Javier Baez (link), and Robbie Ray (link).
Whether or not the Tigers add an additional starter in free agency, their rotation figures to be a strength in 2022, with Rodriguez heading a a cast of high-upside young arms in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning. Veteran righty Spencer Turnbull, who required Tommy John surgery after a hot start to the 2021 campaign, could also contribute down the stretch, though the club is unlikely to count on him until 2023.