The number of suitors for the services of Detroit Tigers lefthander Matt Boyd seems to grow longer every day. You can now add the Philadelphia Phillies to the mix, according to a report from Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media.
Despite the major acquisitions the club made this past offseason, including Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies currently sit third in the National League East, and are clinging to a slender lead for the final wild card spot. Boyd could well be the piece that allows them to run down the Atlanta Braves and, at minimum, assure themselves a playoff berth. Their rotation currently ranks 24th in fWAR, so the need is obvious. Further, the substantial multi-year deal the Phillies tendered to starter Jake Arrieta prior to the 2018 season isn’t working out well at all. Arrieta’s 4.67 ERA and 5.07 FIP are not at all what the club was hoping for, and a recent diagnosis of a bone spur in the veteran righthander’s throwing elbow only clouds the potential for a second-half rebound.
The Phillies would have to give up their top prospects
Philadelphia’s need for another good starting pitcher is obvious. Additionally, their organization is decidedly in win-now mode, having committed huge sums of money and substantial prospect capital to open their window to contend in October. They aren’t in a position where standing pat and waiting for next year is a palatable option. The problem? The Phillies’ stockpile of minor league talent doesn’t compare with many of the other clubs showing interest in acquiring Boyd.
A familiar refrain in every trade rumor piece these days is the assertion that [insert any GM here] doesn’t want to give up their top prospects to get a deal done. That posture may be a viable one for teams with deep stables of quality talent on the farm. It’s not a viable one for the Phillies. They retain several quality prospects, but not enough to reasonably hold any of them back from consideration by the Tigers’ front office. And their need is too great for them to simply turn elsewhere without seriously undercutting the chances of a real upgrade to their roster.
Boyd would give the Phillies a major boost in their starting rotation this season. He also represents a cost-controlled, long-term investment that matches up perfectly with their window to bring the club back to postseason glory.
What could the Tigers ask in return for Boyd?
There’s a simple answer here: the Phillies top prospect, third baseman Alec Bohm, would have to be included in this deal. The Phils have some solid pitching prospects, like righthanders Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina. However, the Tigers aren’t in the market to trade 3 1⁄2 years of a good major league pitcher in the midst of a breakout for two solid pitching prospects. They need bats, and preferably ones that play on the dirt. Bohm seems like a competent, if somewhat below-average third baseman defensively, but he has the profile to play at first (to make room for Tigers prospect Isaac Paredes, for example). The Phillies would no doubt balk at including Bohm initially, but it’s extremely difficult to see another path for a deal to proceed.
For an objective perspective, let’s turn to the trade simulator at Baseball Trade Values. Boyd’s trade value, based on performance and salary projections, is set at $34.4 million. That value doesn’t take into account the host of other issues, such as need, overall organizational posture, competition for said player, and the rest that factor into a deal. But in a straight one-for-one comparison, Alec Bohm — ranked 55th overall by FanGraphs and 41st on Baseball Prospectus’ midseason list — is valued at $31.2 million. Even Bohm by himself isn’t enough to acquire Boyd, and that’s without taking into account the deeper stockpile of secondary prospects other clubs could painlessly include in such a deal.
In the Phillies’ case, those secondary pieces could include pitching prospects like Howard or Medina. Including Medina, whose stock has slipped a bit over the past year but who still profiles as a good reliever at a minimum, brings the value of the Phillies’ package to $52.5 million. Including Howard instead gives a value of $47.6 million. Either could work. Neither is ideal.
Other options could package Bohm with Triple-A center fielder Adam Haseley ($45.2 million total), or a teenage shortstop prospect like Luis Garcia ($44.1 million). Haseley is close enough to the major leagues that the Phillies would probably hate to part with both he and Bohm, while Garcia might be far enough away to feel less painful to the Phils’ front office.
You can play with the trade simulator all day, but what it can’t take into account is the fact that the Tigers have a lot of suitors in play for Boyd, and no need to deal him away. General manager Al Avila knows that any trade for Boyd has to include at least one impact bat with a reasonable degree of certainty, and Bohm is the only player the Phillies have who fits the bill. It’s possible that the Tigers could take Bohm and a talented-but-flawed young starter like Nick Pivetta, but it’s hard to see how that package is going to compete with what talent-rich organizations like the Rays, Padres, or Braves could comfortably offer.
Never say never
Of all the teams interested in Boyd, the Phillies may be the most pressed to make it happen. With Bryce Harper’s enormous contract on the books, they need to push in their chips. The years of cheap team control attached to Boyd would solidify Philadelphia’s rotation and give their payroll a bit of breathing room to continue to maneuver in the years to come. However, to get there, they are going to have to beat out a lot of other interested parties.
It’s Bohm (and more) or bust in this scenario. If the Phillies are willing to include him, they may well have the best bat available to the Tigers, and the secondary pieces could be negotiated out. In that scenario, the Phillies could leap to the forefront of the Boyd sweepstakes. But without Bohm, their trade proposals are likely dead on arrival.