Well this is a bit of surprising reunion. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Detroit Tigers have signed left-hander Matthew Boyd to a one-year deal. Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press was first with the terms, reporting that the deal is for one-year, $10 million with potential performance bonuses available.
The club seemed set on adding another piece of depth to the starting rotation with Casey Mize out next season, and Tarik Skubal likely to miss at least a few months. The veteran left-hander is a known commodity, suits the park well, and has a fairly lengthy track record as a solid, major league average starting pitcher. On the other hand, locking in a free agent with a lengthy recent track record of injury who has never really been more than a depth starter for a full season is not quite what we had in mind.
You’ll recall that Boyd was off to a pretty good start with new pitching coach Chris Fetter in 2021, but was shut down with a forearm issue after 15 starts. That was the end of his time in Detroit. In his final year with the Tigers he made $6.5 million in his last year of arbitration.
Boyd required surgery to repair his forearm flexor tendon, and that left his availability in 2022 up in the air. The Giants took a chance on him, signing him to a guaranteed $5.2 million for 2022 with incentives included that maxed out at $7.5 million if he hit targets for total starts last year. That did not work out well as Boyd’s rehab took much longer than expected. He didn’t end up pitching for the Giants at all, but was instead flipped to the Seattle Mariners as a depth piece at the trade deadline. Boyd returned on September 1 in a relief appearance, against the Tigers no less, and was in the Mariners bullpen the rest of the way. Ultimately he made just 10 relief appearances and got one out in the postseason.
A reunion with Boyd seemed as likely as anything, as the Tigers needed a bit of veteran depth and Harris appears to like him. What is a bit shocking here is the price. Harris paid twice as much in guaranteed money for him as he did as the Giants GM last offseason, and this is after a year where Boyd barely pitched at all. As the saying goes, there are no bad one-year contracts, but either the starting pitcher market is going to be far tighter this offseason, or he really overpaid here using money that could’ve been used to bolster the bullpen in absence of Michael Fulmer and Andrew Chafin.
The Tigers have Spencer Turnbull, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Manning, Beau Brieske, Joey Wentz, Alex Faedo, Rony Garcia, Garrett Hill, Tyler Alexander, and eventually, Tarik Skubal as their starting pitching group. Hill and Alexander are basically swingmen, but no one would be surprised to see either get a few starts along the way. Garcia presumably belongs in that swingman camp as well. The Tigers have one good and one solid pitching prospect in Wilmer Flores and Reese Olson who have little left to prove at the Double-A level and should be in the mix as depth as the year progresses.
It’s possible that the Tigers aren’t optimistic about Skubal’s progress in returning from a similar flexor tendon injury that waylaid Boyd for over a year. Even so, Joey Wentz took a really nice step forward late in the 2022 season and showed improved command of his rebuilt cutter in the Arizona Fall League. There really isn’t a shortage of left-handed starting pitching available to them. Let alone adding one on a free agent deal who will thus command a spot in the rotation without the ability to option them down to Toledo.
My first reaction, if you want to hear some sifting of tea leaves, is that this seems to portend a trade from their starting group. If the going rate for a fifth starter type, who has a bit of upside but didn’t make a single start in 2022, is $10 million plus incentives, that would seem to indicate that the starting pitcher market is pretty tight this offseason. That’s assuming that new President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, is reading the market accurately. It’s possible that he decided to get out in front of that market to leave the Tigers in a position where they could deal a pitcher for positional help.
Still, that’s just a guess and we’ll have to wait and see what else he has in store. The Tigers certainly have plenty of starting pitching options now. Maybe that’s the only point to this, as we watched a deep pool of starting pitchers crumble due to injury last year. It’s the addition of yet another lefty that I’m finding difficult to square with the rest of the Tigers’ many needs, including in their bullpen.
We’ve always liked Matt Boyd. He’s a high character guy with leadership ability, and he’s flashed the potential for better production on numerous occasions without ever being able to sustain it. So we’ll welcome him back with open arms, but also with some confusion as to the underlying reasoning for what appears to be a pretty generous contract.
Left-hander Matt Boyd and the Detroit Tigers are in agreement on a contract, pending physical, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Boyd, 31, spent seven seasons with the Tigers and returns to a team looking to overhaul its pitching staff under new president Scott Harris.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 1, 2022