Matthew Boyd posted a 3.87 ERA with a WHIP of 1.12 while striking out a dozen batters per nine innings during the first half of the 2019 season. He was rewarded by being named as the Tigers’ representative on the American league all star team. For the rest of the season, trade talk surrounding Boyd was endless.
The second half of the 2019 season was a different story, as Boyd posted a 5.51 ERA, a WHIP of 1.38 and a home run ratio of 2.30 HR/9. By season’s end, his net 1.89 HR/9 was the highest in the league among qualified starting pitchers but he maintained his lofty strikeout pace at 11.56 K/9, and posted 3.3 fWAR to lead all Tigers.
The Tigers’ asking price for Boyd was reported to be unreasonably high, but by the end of the season, his value had plummeted along with his performance. 2020 was supposed to be a bounce back season.
The 29 year old left hander entered the 2020 season as the Ace of the Tigers’ rotation, but he didn’t pitch like an Ace. In twelve starts, he pitched to a 6.71 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP, with a home run ratio of 2.28 HR/9- once again the highest in the league, and by a fair amount. He was getting hit hard on a regular basis.
Boyd managed to slow the bleeding later in the season, but he continued to surrender home runs at a batting practice pace, and he never regained the form that got him the all star appearance a season earlier. He finished the year right at replacement level with a 0.0 fWAR.
Boyd leads a group of ten Tigers who are eligible for arbitration entering the off season this winter. His $5.3 million salary ranks second only to Miguel Cabrera on the roster after all the 2020 contracts expire, and that figures to increase again in what will be his third time out of four seasons eligible for arbitration. He is projected to receive a salary of between $5.5 to $7.8 million for the 2021 season.
With that kind of a price tag for a pitcher who has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, Boyd has little trade value. He has two seasons of arbitration remaining before he is eligible for free agency, so he’s not classified as a “rental” just yet. Whether the Tigers plan to deal him or to build around him, the smart play is to let him regain much of his value with improved performance.
While the Tigers have several young starting pitchers just breaking into the major leagues who look like a formidable rotation in the near future, they still need to protect those arms with some veterans who can take the ball every five days and give them some innings. Boyd did that, starting as many games as all but one pitcher in the league, and being just one of twenty pitchers in the American league to throw 60 innings. That’s less than two starters per team.
Boyd is no longer the Ace of the Tigers’ rotation. He still strikes out a batter per inning, but he has been allowing way too much hard contact to be effective. Certainly, the Tigers would like to get him back to the form that he showed in early 2019. It’s not time to cut bait, especially with all the payroll savings they’re getting from expiring contracts on the roster entering the 2021 season.