- Tigers starter Matthew Boyd has been to see a “number of doctors” about the arm discomfort that landed him on the injured list on June 15th. He won’t pitch again before the All-Star break, but there is no structural damage in the arm, per the Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen (via Twitter). Detroit plans to be cautious with the 30-year-old southpaw, adds Evan Woodbery of the Mlive Media Group (via Twitter). In 13 starts this season, Boyd has a 3.44 ERA/3.75 FIP across 70 2/3 innings. In terms of the positive, his 6.4 percent walk rate is better than his career norm. On the other side, Boyd’s strikeouts are down (18.8 percent strikeout rate). If all goes well, the Tigers hope to have a healthy Boyd back in the rotation for the second half.
- Matt Boyd will visit Dr. Neal ElAttrache for an examination of the Tigers southpaw’s ailing left arm, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including Chris McCosky of The Detroit News). More will be known once the exam takes place, though the team is already considering holding Boyd and Spencer Turnbull back until after the All-Star break. “Are we going to push these guys before the All-Star break versus utilizing the time (the four-day break) and targeting them back after the break? That’s the assessment that’s going to be done over the next couple of weeks on how we’re going to ramp these guys back up,” Hinch said. A forearm strain sent Turnbull to the IL on June 5, and while his injury wasn’t though to be overly serious, naturally the Tigers will be cautious with any forearm issue. Boyd — and perhaps Turnbull as well — figure to be trade chips for Detroit at the deadline, so while the team would surely want both hurlers to prove they’re healthy prior to July 30, there is no point in rushing them back and risking further injury.
The Tigers have designated catcher Wilson Ramos and righty Beau Burrows for assignment, according to a club announcement. That opens up 40-man roster spots for additions Wily Peralta and Miguel Del Pozo, moves covered in this post.
Ramos, 33, is a 12-year Major League veteran. The Tigers signed him to a one-year, $2MM deal back in January, and Ramos started the majority of the team’s games at catcher until going on the shelf on May 7th with a back injury. Ramos started strong, with six home runs in his first nine games. However, Eric Haase and Jake Rogers have proven themselves capable. The 28-year-old Haase, who was removed from the Tigers’ 40-man roster back in January, has already blasted eight home runs in 100 plate appearances.
Ramos has had a long, successful career, with his finest years coming as a member of the Nationals. He’s generally been regarded as a bat-first catcher, and posted a 105 wRC+ over a career-high 141 games for the 2019 Mets. He’s reached double-digit home runs in nine different seasons and has a pair of All-Star appearances under his belt.
Burrows, 24, was drafted 22nd overall by the Tigers back in 2015 out of high school, two spots ahead of Walker Buehler. Not long after that, Burrows was rated as a 60-grade prospect by Baseball America. Though he wasn’t particularly successful in the high minors, prior to this season BA still gave Burrows a 45 grade, saying, “Without a true out pitch, it’s hard to project Burrows as much more than a low-leverage reliever.” Unfortunately, the most memorable part of Burrows’ lone MLB outing this season was his vomiting on the pitching mound.
The Tigers announced a series of roster moves today, the most exciting of which is the planned MLB debut of acclaimed pitching prospect Matt Manning. Manning, 23, will start Thursday night in Anaheim against the Angels. Additionally, pitchers Matthew Boyd and Alex Lange hit the IL, Wily Peralta and Miguel Del Pozo had their contracts selected, and Jeimer Candelario was reinstated from the IL.
Manning was drafted ninth overall by the Tigers in 2016 out of high school. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Manning as the 33rd-best prospect in the game. The COVID-19 pandemic deprived Manning and many others of a minor league season in 2020, and he also dealt with a right forearm strain. Manning made his Triple-A debut on May 4th of this year. He’s scuffled to an 8.07 ERA in seven starts, with more than 27% of his flyballs leaving the yard. Still, Manning’s last outing was solid, and he retains “frontline starter potential” according to Baseball America. He’ll get a tough assignment, going up against Shohei Ohtani.
Boyd, 30, exited Monday’s start due to an arm injury that Tigers manager A.J. Hinch described today as “more toward the elbow.” Through 13 starts, he was experiencing a resurgent season with a 3.44 ERA in 70 2/3 frames. With a strikeout rate of just 18.8%, Boyd is likely still a 4.50 ERA type pitcher whose flyballs happened to stay in the yard over a brief sample. Still, he’s under team control through 2022 as an arbitration eligible player and should be a solid late July trade candidate if the injury turns out to be minor. Boyd joins rotation-mate Spencer Turnbull on the IL.
Lange, a 25-year-old rookie reliever, struggled to the tune of a 7.31 ERA over 18 fairly low-leverage outings before hitting the IL with a shoulder strain. He was rated as a 40-grade prospect by Baseball America prior to the season.
Peralta and Del Pozo will be new additions to the Tigers’ 40-man roster. One such spot was opened with the transferring of Rony Garcia to the 60-day IL. Peralta, 32, joined the Tigers on a minor league deal back in February. He was once a productive member of the Brewers’ rotation, peaking with a 3.53 ERA in 198 2/3 innings back in 2014. He managed to give the Mud Hens six mostly solid but brief outings and is an option to take Boyd’s spot Saturday in Anaheim, Hinch told reporters.
Del Pozo has 13 big league innings to his name. The 28-year-old southpaw inked a minor league deal with the Tigers back in January. He’s been dominant in a dozen Triple-A relief outings, punching out 34.7% of batters faced and walking only 6.1%.
10:50pm: Tigers manager A.J. Hinch tells reporters in his postgame session that Boyd felt something abnormal in his triceps during the third inning (Twitter link via Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic). They’ll know more following an additional wave of tests tomorrow, but Hinch suggested a cautious approach is likely to be taken.
9:25pm: Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd is being evaluated after exiting tonight’s start during the third inning with what the team is terming “left arm discomfort,” per a club announcement. Boyd signaled into the dugout for a trainer to come out after 2 1/3 innings of work against the Royals tonight (video link).
While the hope is that he’ll avoid any notable injury, the departure of such an obvious trade candidate this time of year is plenty notable. Boyd has pitched quite well thus far in 2021, bouncing back from an awful 2020 season to post a 3.44 ERA through his first 70 2/3 innings. His 19.6 percent strikeout rate is his lowest since 2017, but Boyd’s 6.4 percent walk rate is also the second-best mark of his career (narrowly trailing a 6.3 percent mark from 2019).
Boyd, 30, was a popular target on the trade market a couple years back, but the Tigers had more than three years of control over him at that point and opted to hold on with the hope of extracting a better offer at some point down the road. Unfortunately, Boyd took a step back in 2019 and then had the worst year of his career in 2020, so that opportunity has yet to present itself.
At this point, the Tigers control Boyd for just one more year after the current season, making him perhaps one of the likeliest players in all of baseball to be dealt — assuming he’s healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $6.5MM salary in 2021 and has been more effective than ever before against right-handed opponents, in part due to an increase in the use of a changeup that has generally befuddled opposite-handed opponents.
Opposing hitters are batting just .224/.246/.343 in the 69 plate appearances Boyd has finished off with a changeup, and the pitch itself has generated a 29 percent whiff rate, per Statcast. Entering play tonight, Boyd had thrown just two changeups to lefties all season but 244 to right-handers; he threw just 187 changeups in a similar workload last season and only 182 over the course of 32 starts in 2019.
Even if the discomfort proves minor enough that Boyd doesn’t miss an outing, his performance and health from this point forth will obviously be all the more important to monitor for those who closely follow the trade market. There’s still a bit more than six weeks to go until the July 30 deadline, so if Boyd shakes off the current ailment and continues at his previous pace in the weeks leading up to the deadline, this will be a quickly forgotten blip on the radar. If he requires a lengthy absence or sees an immediate dip in his results in the coming weeks, there will be obvious implications for the Tigers that extend well beyond their 2021 win-loss record.
The Tigers announced this morning they’ve selected the contract of Buck Farmer. Beau Burrows was optioned to Triple-A Toledo last night to clear active roster space. Jeimer Candelario was placed on the COVID-19 injured list yesterday while he goes through intake protocols after going on bereavement leave. That temporarily opens a 40-man roster spot for Farmer, but Detroit will need to make another 40-man move once Candelario clears the intake process.
Farmer returns to Detroit, where he’s logged big league action in every season since 2014. The right-hander was a durable and generally productive middle reliever from 2018-20, a stretch in which he tossed 158 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA/4.20 FIP ball. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates were all just worse than league average, but his ability to soak up decent innings out of the bullpen made him a fairly valuable part of the Detroit pitching staff.
The 2021 season began in nightmarish fashion for the 30-year-old, though. In 10 2/3 frames, Farmer coughed up fifteen runs on as many hits, walking nine batters while striking out ten. Between his huge spike in walks and massive drop in grounders, the Tigers felt they could no longer keep him on the active roster. Detroit designated Farmer, who is out of minor league option years, for assignment and passed him through waivers last month. He’s since tossed 11 1/3 relief innings with Toledo, allowing five runs with a 7:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Since Farmer is out of options, the Tigers will need to carry him on the active roster from this point forward or again designate him for assignment.
June 10: Jones indeed cleared waivers and has been sent outright to Triple-A Toledo, per an announcement from the Tigers. He’ll remain with the organization and collect the remainder of this year’s salary but no longer occupy a spot on the 40-man roster. As a player with three-plus years of service who has been outrighted from the 40-man roster, he’ll be able to become a free agent at season’s end (unless he’s selected back to Majors and finishes the year on their 40-man roster).
June 6: The Tigers announced they’re selecting the contract of right-hander Jason Foley from Triple-A Toledo. To create 40-man roster space, they’re designating outfielder JaCoby Jones for assignment. Additionally, righty Michael Fulmer has been placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to June 3, with a right shoulder strain. As expected, José Ureña has been reinstated from the IL to take Fulmer’s place on the active roster.
Jones’ designation registers as something of a surprise. Acquired from the Pirates at the 2015 trade deadline in exchange for Joakim Soria, Jones has appeared in the big leagues with Detroit in each of the past six seasons. He’s been a fairly regular contributor between 2018-21, starting about half the team’s games between center and left field. Altogether, Jones managed just a .219/.282/.389 (78 wRC+) mark in that time, albeit with intermittent flashes of enough power and defensive upside to keep the Detroit front office intrigued.
Across the board, advanced defensive metrics lauded Jones’ glovework between center and left field in 2018. The Tigers gambled he could play a full-time center field after that season, although the metrics all suggest he dropped off rather significantly in that regard between 2019-21. Jones has proven similarly inconsistent on the other side of the ball. Despite always-lofty strikeout rates, the right-handed hitter has occasionally shown enough thump to be a productive hitter. That was particularly true in 2020, when Jones hit .268/.333/.515 across 108 plate appearances before suffering a season-ending hand fracture.
For as strong as Jones began the 2020 season, he opened 2021 with an absolutely dismal start at the plate. He hit just .170/.210/.250 over 105 trips to the dish, leading the Tigers to demote him to Toledo. Things haven’t gotten much better with the Mud Hens, as Jones is off to a .205/.255/.364 start in the minors, where he’s struck out in 18 of his first 47 plate appearances.
The Tigers will now have a week to trade Jones or place him on outright waivers. Any team that claims Jones off waivers would assume the remaining portion of his $2.65MM salary (approximately $1.7MM). Given Jones’ immense struggles this season, it seems unlikely another club will put in a claim, although it’s at least possible the Tigers could agree to pay down some of that money in exchange for a prospect if a rival team has interest in acquiring Jones via a small trade.
The more probable outcome is that Jones will clear waivers and be sent outright to Toledo. As a player with between three and five years of MLB service time, Jones technically has the right to refuse a minor league assignment and elect free agency. Doing so, however, would require forfeiting the remainder of his guaranteed salary, so Jones would almost certainly accept an outright assignment and look to play his way back to Detroit at some point this season.
Foley, a 25-year-old reliever, is now in line to make his major league debut. In their writeup of the Tigers farm system, Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs note that Foley works in the 96-99 MPH range with his fastball. Longenhagen and Goldstein call Foley a potential “foundational piece of the Tigers bullpen,” but note that his relatively advanced age and injury history, including a 2018 Tommy John surgery, add some risk to the profile. Foley has thrown ten innings of four-run ball with ten strikeouts and four walks at Triple-A this season, his first crack at the minors’ highest level.
- Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this morning that he plans to give catcher Eric Haase “as much playing time as I can” to afford him further opportunity to cement his place on the big league roster (Twitter link, with audio). The 28-year-old Haase, a Detroit native and childhood Tigers fan, has been an out-of-nowhere success story since being summoned to Detroit. The minor league veteran has tallied 74 plate appearances and responded with a .265/.324/.647 slash and a whopping seven home ruins. Hinch called Haase a “pretty good athlete,” which is why he’s seen time in left field, and suggested Haase could also handle first base. There’s a case being made to keep Haase on the roster even when the team’s other catching options come off the injured list.
- Hinch also noted in his appearance (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck, on Twitter) that right-hander Spencer Turnbull will miss “a little bit of time but not nearly as long” as the Tigers originally feared when he first alerted the team to the forearm strain that has landed him on the 10-day IL. That sounds like Turn bull is in for more than a minimal stint, but it’s good that a worst-case scenario has been avoided. The 28-year-old Turnbull drew headlines for this year’s no-hitter, but he’s been a solid starter for Detroit dating back to 2019. During that stretch, he’s logged a combined 4.13 ERA in 255 innings with a 22 percent strikeout rate and a 9.1 percent walk rate. With three years of club control remaining beyond the 2021 season, a healthy Turnbull would figure to command considerable interest on the summer trade market, though that club control also means the Tigers are under no pressure to move him if a compelling offer doesn’t present itself.
JUNE 6: Follow-up testing on Turnbull confirmed the issue is indeed muscular, not structural, in nature. Turnbull has a bit of forearm inflammation, Hinch said (via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com), but the team is “very happy with the initial diagnosis.”
JUNE 5: The Tigers announced that right-hander Spencer Turnbull has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a right forearm strain. Righty Bryan Garcia has been called up from Triple-A Toledo to take Turnbull’s spot on the active roster.
The move isn’t a surprise, after Turnbull left last night’s start after four innings. Though he was still pitching well (one ER on two hits and no walks, with four strikeouts), Turnbull was experiencing forearm tightness and the Tigers opted to pull him from the game.
More will be known about Turnbull’s injury in due time, but manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck) that “the initial diagnosis is positive,” since Turnbull’s problem seems to be muscular rather than structural. Another good sign was that Turnbull didn’t appear to be in severe pain, as Hinch said that the righty “fought to stay in the game.”
The IL placement interrupts that has already been a memorable season for Turnbull, who authored a no-hitter back on May 18 and has looked solid over an even 50 innings pitched in 2021. Turnbull has a 2.88 ERA/3.71 SIERA, with a big 57.2% grounder rate, six percent walk rate, and some strong soft-contact numbers that have allowed him to succeed despite not missing many bats (21.9% strikeout rate).
Jose Urena could serve as a ready-made replacement for Turnbull, as Urena is scheduled to start Sunday in his own return from the injured list. Urena is back after only a minimum 10 days after a forearm strain of his own, so his situation would represent the best-case scenario for Turnbull if his forearm problem is also relatively minor. Since Michael Fulmer isn’t likely to be shifted out of relief work and Julio Teheran isn’t ready to return from the 60-day IL, the Tigers could turn to the opener strategy to fill the open spot in the rotation, or perhaps turn to Tyler Alexander or a minor league call-up.