Major League Baseball is about three weeks out from the trade deadline, and the Detroit Tigers, with one of the worst records in the league, have some assets to deal.
Shane Greene, the All-Star closer, will almost assuredly be traded, while a team desperate enough for offense (like, say, the Cleveland Indians) might be willing to pay for Nicholas Castellanos.
But the real prize on the Tigers’ roster is Matthew Boyd, who has broken out to the tune of a 3.56 FIP/3.34 xFIP season. Boyd has been worth 2.8 fWAR in the first half, making him the fifteenth most valuable pitcher in baseball. However, given that Boyd is under team control through 2022, the price tag is sky-high. Complicating things is that the Tigers want an elite bat in any trade package, limiting the number of teams that have the ability to acquire the new Tigers ace.
Thanks to Chris Brown (via Twitter) we know that Boyd is worth roughly $65 million in surplus value. That’s enough to return one elite prospect, in the top 10 range, or a package including a top 25 prospect and a top 100 prospect, with maybe a throw-in or two. Given that the Tigers want an elite bat, though, not ever team is going to be able to pay the specific asking price they’re interested in. Let’s try to piece together what those trades might look like from every contending club. For this exercise, I’ll be using Fangraphs’ THE BOARD!, recently updated post-draft. I’ll toss in some scouting reports here and there, but this one’s gonna be long, so they’ll mostly be for key pieces.
More after the cut
We start with the team that, in my estimation, matches up with the Tigers best. Cristian Pache and Drew Waters both have the prospect pedigree, scouting reports, and results to back up a trade as the centerpiece of the Boyd deal. Pache has an elite glove and has made strides with the bat this season, while Waters is more of a hitter who could still stick in center. For complementary pieces, the Braves have a deep system, though one that skews primarily toward pitching. There, a back-end top 100 prospect like Bryse Wilson or Kyle Muller could fill out the deal, though there are also lots of 45 FV (future value) prospects that the Tigers could pursue.
Boston Red Sox
My #1 rule: never trade with Dave Dombrowski. Thankfully, Boston has little to offer here, with their top prospects on Fangraphs’s board being A ball first baseman Triston Casas and AA center fielder Jarren Duran. If the Sox and the Tigers trade, odds are it’ll be for Shane Greene as opposed to Matthew Boyd. Again, though, see my #1 rule.
If the Tigers trade with Chicago, the best two targets are likely catcher Miguel Amaya or second baseman Nico Hoerner. Maybe the Tigers dig deeper for someone like Cole Roederer or Brennan Davis, but it’s hard to see a guy here that turns into an above average bat, which is what Detroit wants.
With Houston, the list stops and ends with Kyle Tucker. Despite a rough 70-ish plate appearances with the Astros last year, Tucker’s bat has rave reviews. While his swing is weird, the Astros clearly like him, having refused to include him in a potential Verlander trade and having informed the Tigers they won’t deal him for Boyd.
The options beyond Tucker look grim. The Astros could deal Yordan Alvarez, but much like with Clint Frazier (more on him later), his MLB numbers are unsustainable. Add to that a likely home at DH, and Alvarez might not be a great choice. That doesn’t leave a lot left to play with besides pitchers, most of which don’t crack the top 100. Here, it’s likely Tucker or bust.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Keibert Ruiz and Dustin May are likely untouchable, so a trade package would likely center on Gavin Lux, the breakout middle infielder in the Dodgers farm system. Lux can hit, and likely has all-star upside, but that decreases the odds that LA will part with him. Beyond those three, Will Smith is probably the best prospect in the system, but given that he’s currently playing in LA, and that the Tigers have Jake Rogers ready to debut, it’s unlikely they accept him as a centerpiece.
With two prospects in Fangraphs top 100, it’s going to be tough for Milwaukee to put together a trade package without including elite middle infielder Keston Hiura. The Brewers have some nice shortstop prospects in Brice Turang and Maurcio Dubon, but neither really have the star power to headline a Boyd trade. For Shane Greene, maybe, but any trade for Boyd would require Hiura, and that’s a price the Brewers are unlikely to pay.
Though the Tigers likely won’t trade with an inter-divisional rival, Minnesota could probably build a package around bat first outfield prospect Alex Kiriloff. The Tigers would sure like that, and it’s possible that some complementary pieces get this deal done, but I’d doubt it. If they were in a different division, I’d like the Twins as a trade partner, but as it stands, this is likely a pipe dream.
New York Yankees
First, let’s rule out Clint Frazier as the key piece in this deal. Frazier’s numbers look good on the surface, but poor defensive ratings, a high BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), and a strikeout rate that’s exceptionally close to JaCoby Jones’s mean he’s likely an average player.
With no Frazier (please, God, no Clint Frazier), it becomes hard to make a deal. Deivi Garcia is a good pitching prospect with top of the rotation potential, but he’s another pitcher in a farm system absolutely stacked with pitching. The Yankees’ best position prospect is Estevan Florial, but an injury history and a lack of production above High A mean he won’t center a trade.
It’s possible that the Tigers could come to some sort of agreement based around Garcia, Florial, and Frazier, but that would require taking on an elite pitching prospect, something that the front office likely doesn’t want to do. Florial and Frazier alone will not get this deal done, so the Yankees are likely out barring a Gleyber Torres trade.
Here, the Tigers are likely looking at a package built around Alec Bohm, a very good third base prospect. He’s a bat-first prospect who’s produced at every level, and could easily be a middle-of-the-order threat for Detroit for years. The real problem is that the Tigers would be leaving some value on the table, with the Phillies’ next best prospects being pitchers (Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina). I wouldn’t hate to see Bohm in the Tigers’ farm, but it would take a willingness by Philly to deal him, plus a high grade from this front office, plus additional complementary pieces. Philly could put together a good package, but it would cost them a lot.
San Diego Padres
The Padres have contacted Detroit about a possible Boyd trade, with speculation centering around Franmil Reyes or Hunter Renfroe. Both players are a bit red-flaggy, and probably wouldn’t be the absolute centerpiece of the deal. But Luis Urias, a promising second base prospect, would be a good fit. Urias doesn’t project to have a lot of power, but he should be a top-of-the-order hitter who can stay at second.
San Diego is particularly interesting because trading Reyes or Renfroe would leave a gap in the Padres’ lineup that could be filled by Nicholas Castellanos. So a Boyd-Castellanos for Reyes-Urias trade might make a lot of sense, with maybe a complementary piece on either side.
St Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals offer some decent position prospects, which might make them a dark horse for Boyd. Nolan Gorman raked in A ball and has lots of power potential at third base. Andrew Knizer looks like he could be a capable starting catcher. Dylan Carlson has a good bat with lots of pop, even though he’s stuck in a corner. A package of Gorman and Carlson might get it done, though it offers a ton of risk.
Tampa Bay Rays
Trading with Tampa Bay is the dream for Tigers fans. Boyd won’t return Wander Franco, and while Avila might ask for Brendan McKay, he’s likely off the table too. But second base prospect Vidal Brujan or outfielder Jesus Sanchez might get the ball rolling. Brujan has upside at second base despite his small stature, and Sanchez can hit, despite problems with plate discipline. The Rays also have tons of complementary pieces, including both hitters and pitchers, and it would be easy to make something happen with their deep farm system.
The bigger issue with Tampa Bay is their strange pitching staff. Right now, they’re more interested in bullpen arms than starting pitchers, and might not be willing to pay the price for Boyd. On the other hand, recent reports suggest Tampa is one of the teams heavily scouting the Detroit ace, and given that they’re about to face a 40-man roster crunch, this could be a good match.
Overall, four teams match up well with the Tigers for a Boyd trade: the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the San Diego Padres, and the Tampa Bay Rays. Even among those teams, though, there are a lot of red flags. The Braves have two good center field prospects, and a deep system with good pitchers to supplement a deal, but that means accepting even more arms. The Phillies essentially have one great player, and so any deal depends on what you think of Alec Bohm. The Padres offer good young outfielders, but that requires dealing off the major league roster. The Rays are a good match on paper, but they might not be willing to pay the price Avila wants. It’s possible Houston or LA gets involved and deals either Tucker or Lux, which would be excellent too, but that doesn’t seem likely now. If a trade gets done, and it’s far from a certainty, it will require a real impact bat.