The Tigers announced Tuesday that they will not tender a contract to left-hander Matthew Boyd, immediately making him a free agent. Boyd, 30, pitched just eight innings after June 14 this season due to a pair of forearm injuries, ultimately leading to flexor tendon surgery in late September. He’d been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $7.3MM in what would have been his final season of arbitration eligibility.
A specific timeline for Boyd’s return to the mound was never provided, with the team stating only it was “hopeful” he’d be able to pitch at some point in the 2022 season. Tigers GM Al Avila briefly discussed Boyd in his end-of-year press conference and acknowledged that a non-tender was a possibility. At the very least, it’s reasonable to expect Boyd to miss a notable portion of the 2022 campaign; were the Tigers expecting him to be ready early in the season, they’d surely have tendered him a contract, given his track record and lengthy tenure with the club.
The 2020 season was brutal for Boyd, who was knocked around for a 6.71 ERA, but he’s otherwise been a solid starter in Detroit — at times looking like an intriguing mid-rotation option. Boyd has shown the ability to miss bats in droves in the past, though he traded some punchouts for efficiency in 2021 when he attacked the strike zone at a career-best rate and accordingly dropped his walk rate to 6.8% — the second best mark of his career.
Even with that woeful 2020 showing, Boyd carries a 4.66 ERA, a 24.9% strikeout rate and a 6.9% walk rate over his past 494 2/3 innings at the MLB level. He’s often been homer-prone in the past, but Boyd has also gone through stretches where he looks on the cusp of taking his game to a new level. He pitched to a 3.44 ERA and 3.75 FIP through 13 starts this past season before landing on the injured list, for instance, and Boyd looked dominant for a good chunk of the 2019 season as well before a dismal second-half swoon. Whenever he’s healthy, Boyd will surely be viewed by teams around the league as an upside play who, with a few tweaks, could potentially sustain some of those flashes of success he’s shown in the past.
For the time being, with the looming lockout and uncertainty surrounding Boyd’s arm, it’s likely he’ll remain a free agent until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and instead field offers from other clubs once the forthcoming transaction freeze is lifted.