The rumor mill is going to kick into high gear now that the calendar has turned to July. With one month to prepare themselves for the stretch drive, contenders and sellers alike are weighing their options, checking in on players, and beginning preliminary talks. For the Detroit Tigers, those rumors are obviously going to center around Matt Boyd and All-Star closer Shane Greene.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported on Monday that the Houston Astros are one of the interested parties checking in on Boyd. Currently, the Astros are 6 1⁄2 games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West, and hold the third-best record in the American League. They had hoped for help from their top pitching prospects, such as Forrest Whitley and Corbin Martin this season, but the outlook is bleak on both fronts at the moment.
Whitley struggled to start the season and is currently rehabbing his shoulder after hitting the injured list for shoulder fatigue. He isn’t likely to return to action for several more weeks, meaning the Astros aren’t going to get much reassurance from him before having to decide on their posture in the run up to the July 31 trade deadline. Meanwhile, Martin is dealing with elbow pain that recently landed him on the injured list as well.
Boyd is an especially interesting fit for the Astros. He’s a Super Two player who will be under team control through the 2022 season so he fits the team budget and could be a long-term part of the Astros plans to maintain their dominance of the AL West. His breakout as a strikeout artist over the past two seasons came as a result of making exactly the type of changes the Astros tend to recommend.
Boyd redesigned his slider into one of the better weapons in the American League in 2018, and per recent protocol, began making his best pitch a much bigger part of his repertoire. This season, he finally ditched his twoseam fastball as well, fully committing to his riding fourseamer and slider as the vast majority of his offerings. The results are a 3.57 FIP that is a full mark lower than his career number, and a 26 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate (K-BB).
The gist of Morosi’s brief report is that the Astros have interest in Matt Boyd but, at least right now, are unwilling to include their top outfield prospect, Kyle Tucker in a Boyd deal. The 22-year-old Tucker saw his stock slip a bit this offseason after struggles in his brief time in the major leagues. However he’s continued to mash this season, putting up 24 home runs and collecting 19 steals in Pacific Coast League action. FanGraphs has a 55 future value grade on him currently, marking his as an above average, but non-elite prospect.
Most agree that he profiles as a corner outfielder with below average speed, putting pressure on his bat. However it’s a very good bat and Tucker’s baseball IQ and quality throwing arm should make him a good fit in right field, with the ability to play center field in a pinch.
The Astros do retain a deep farm system, but there are only a few high-end prospects remaining. The Tigers could try the Justin Verlander route again, taking a selection of solid prospects, but it’s hard to imagine a deal like that working out in the Tigers interest. With Whitley presumed to be untouchable, Kyle Tucker probably has to be involved to close a deal for Matt Boyd.