The mold has just about set on the 2019 season, meaning the trade market will be heating up again in the next few weeks. The Detroit Tigers figure to be on the selling side of midsummer transactions again. Their most valuable asset is obviously southpaw Matt Boyd. He has been a force to be reckoned with this year, already eclipsing his 2018 WAR total in just 16 starts (he made 31 last year) while striking out batters at a career-high rate and walking them at a career low rate.
Cost-controlled and under contract until 2022, it’s obvious why Boyd has been attracting attention from the front offices of contending clubs — including the Milwaukee Brewers.
A little light was shed on the situation on Friday afternoon in an article published by Robert Murray at The Athletic. Murray explored whether the Brewers would be willing to part with one of their high-end prospects in a deal for reinforcements for their beleaguered pitching staff. It was revealed that they have “been eyeballing” the Tigers’ hurler with a mind to add him to their rotation.
Tigers general manager Al Avila has made it clear that he has no interest in parting with his top pitcher unless the return is tremendous. Naturally, his focus will be on coaxing Milwaukee into including their best prospect, second baseman Keston Hiura.
Hiura is a great fit for the Tigers on multiple counts. One of the biggest complaints about the Detroit’s rebuild is that they are failing to address their lack of strong position player prospects. That’s a profile that Hiura fits to a tee. He is a double-plus (70-grade) hitter with significant power potential who should be able to stick in the middle infield. He is also major league ready — he made his MLB debut with the Brewers in May — and fills a prominent need on the Tigers’ roster. In a vacuum, a player of Boyd’s caliber should be able to pull that kind of prospect firepower.
Unfortunately, Brewers GM David Stearns doesn’t appear to see things that way.
That same article from The Athletic notes that the only untouchable player in Milwaukee’s pipeline is — you guessed it — Keston Hiura. That’s an understandable point of view, frankly. Baseball prospects are rarely low-risk, but Hiura is as low-risk as they come.
It’s difficult to envision that a deal gets done without Hiura in the mix, though.
Looking a little deeper into the Brewers’ system, there are a few other prospects who could make sense with the Tigers’ system. Another second baseman, Mauricio Dubon, has been floated as an expendable player who could be dealt for major league talent. He is playing well in Triple-A and has the tools to stick around as a second-division regular, but is blocked in Milwaukee’s organization.
Outfielder Corey Ray is also close to making an impact at the MLB level. Flashing louder tools than Dubon, Ray utilizes a powerful swing and runs well. At his best, he shows one of the most exciting skill sets in the minor leagues. His lapses in performance are lengthy, however, and he has spent significant time on the injured list. If things start to click for the former top-5 draft pick, though, he has legitimate 20-20 potential.
There are plenty of other prospects who could be of interest to the Tigers in a potential deal. Brice Turang, a well-rounded shortstop the Brewers drafted in 2018, has been dynamite in Low-A. Lefthander Aaron Ashby has dominated minor leaguers with his big curveball. Bat speed is the trademark of the toolsy Joe Gray Jr. Milwaukee could easily create a deep package of tempting prospects.
In the end, though, Boyd’s landing spot probably isn’t Milwaukee. They simply don’t have the resources to both add a frontline starter and keep their star prospect. Should they reconsider their stance on Hiura, though, that changes the math considerably as we move into July.