The Detroit Tigers announced on Friday that starting pitcher Matthew Boyd will undergo flexor tendon surgery on Monday, September 27. The procedure is not as serious as Tommy John surgery, and Boyd is expecting to return to action some time next season. A rough guess would be nine months recovery time, or around June, 2022. Boyd has been Detroit’s opening day starter the past two seasons.
Boyd missed two and a half months this season due to soreness in his triceps, and returned to the injured list with elbow discomfort after making just two starts in the interim. When healthy, he managed to get in 15 starts with career bests with a 3.89 ERA, 4.06 fielding independent pitching (FIP), and a 1.03 home runs per nine innings ratio. He had a respectable 2.63 walks per nine ratio, but his strikeout rate was also down to 7.67. If he could have maintained those numbers across a full season, he could have been in for a substantial raise in his final season of arbitration eligibility.
Boyd’s future with Detroit is in doubt, as the team is unlikely to tender him a contract knowing that he could miss half the 2022 season or more. Clubs must tender contract offers for at least 80 percent of a player’s salary by December 2nd, or let them go as a free agent. Boyd earned $6.85 million last year and any qualifying offer would set him on course for a raise over that amount in arbitration. He would have been in line for $8 to 9 million through that process in his fourth season of eligibility. Although he’d now be on the lower end of that scale, the strong chance is that he will be non tendered.
The Tigers could bring Boyd back on an incentive laden minor league deal that would only pay him top salary once he returns to the major leagues, but he would be free to sign with any team. The club could also reach agreement with him prior to the tender deadline. Boyd will be a free agent after the 2022 season as long as he logs another 46 days on a major league roster. That will give him the required six years of service time - at least under the current collective bargaining agreement.
Manager AJ Hinch spoke highly of Boyd:
“I’m all on board with Matt Boyd. I think he’s part of the solution,” Hinch said. “Obviously there are factors with where he’s at in his career, his age, his contract -- all that stuff is going to get taken care of eventually. But as a person and a player, Matt Boyd is a winner.” https://t.co/OsjrHD906o— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) September 24, 2021
Boyd came to the Tigers along with Daniel Norris and Jairo Labourt in a trade that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays. His best season came in 2019, when he posted career highs with a 11.87 K/9 ratio and 3.2 fWAR. He leads all Tigers’ pitchers in 2021 with 1.4 fWAR despite missing half the season.
Boyd’s mood was upbeat as he talked to the Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen:
“It’s gonna be good to put that (injury) completely behind me and go forward and feel amazing,” Boyd said. “It’s like intermission for Act 2 of my career. I’m gonna be stronger to go forward, pitching my best baseball, so I’m excited about that point.”
For his major league career, Boyd holds a 4.98 ERA, 9.4 fWAR and 8.71 K/9. He has been plagued by the home run ball, which is something that he seemed to have corrected this season before going on the injury list.
Tigers’ general manager Al Avila wasn’t showing his cards:
“After the surgery is done we’ll see where he’s at, where we’re at,” Avila said. “There is a potential deal to be made, but not really prepared to speak about that right now. Not really making a 100 percent commitment at this point, either.”
The loss of Boyd and Spencer Turnbull team’s two most experienced starting pitchers, leaves the club with an even greater need to bring in some pitching help from outside the organization. While the home grown trio of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal have shown promise early in their careers, the team will need at least two more starters to make up a rotation if they hope to take a step toward contention in 2022.