The Detroit Tigers were not a player in the biggest deal of the offseason, but now that the Mookie Betts trade is done, the time has never been better to deal Matthew Boyd.
Finally, we can put down the popcorn.
After what felt like an eternity of waiting, Mookie Betts has been traded, and the deal is just as entertaining as anyone could have hoped. A three-team trade is sending outfielder Mookie Betts, old friend David Price, and cash from Boston to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, Boston is getting outfielder Alex Verdugo and fireballing Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol. Finally, Minnesota is getting Kenya Maeda from the Dodgers. In a separate (but almost certainly corresponding) trade, the Dodgers are sending outfielder Joc Pederson and well as outfield prospect Andy Pages to their cross-town rivals in exchange for Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo.
That’s a lot to take in, and despite the fact that the trade didn’t include the Tigers, it absolutely could have an impact on the team’s plans.
The most immediate ramification is the fact that the Twins instantly got better. The team that won 101 games and mopped up in the AL Central has done nothing but improve. Managing to keep the core record-setting offense intact would have been a win in and of itself, but they have also done an admirable job of shoring up their sometimes-leaky rotation on the cheap.
This trade strengthens that trend. In his four years since coming stateside, Meada has consistently struck out plenty of hitters and settled in nicely as a mid-rotation starter. He still has four years of control remaining on a somewhat team-friendly contract. Losing Graterol stings a little, but his best-case scenario is essentially that he becomes what Maeda already is.
Adding Maeda to the list of the Twins’ long-term assets isn’t the most pleasant thought, but they were already the monster Detroit will have to vanquish in a return to relevance. More important is what this deal could mean for Matthew Boyd’s trade value.
It’s no secret that the Tigers are open to trading Matthew Boyd if the price is right. True, general manager Al Avila has stated that the tear-down has ended and the team is looking to add to the major league team. Front office types don’t have a reputation for sparkling honesty, though, and the Tigers and Angels have been linked in Boyd rumors since the offseason started.
There couldn’t be a more obvious destination for Boyd if he’s dealt than Anaheim. Perennially on the cusp of contention, they have the starpower core of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon anchoring their roster. They have been completely unafraid to leverage young players to improve their major league roster this season and still have the players to make another splashy move. Most crucially, they badly need another good pitcher.
The sticking point thus far has evidently been the Angels’ unwillingness to part with hyper-athletic outfield prospect Brandon Marsh. With a high floor and a track record of performance, he’s exactly the kind of payer that the Tigers have been largely unable to add during their rebuilding process. Bringing him into the fold could go a long way towards launching the Tigers toward long-term legitimacy.
The Angels, on the other hand, now have Trout, Ohtani, Pederson, Justin Upton, Brain Goodwin, and uber-prospect Jo Adell blocking Marsh’s path to playing time. Pederson will be a free agent after the end of of the 2020 season, but the other three are all controllable assets. Losing any talented player always hurts, but the Angels can probably replace him on the depth chart without much detriment. Boyd, on the other hand, would fill a void for which Los Angeles has no internal answer.
Furthermore, Minnesota’s acquisition of Maeda affirms Boyd’s value on the trade market. By most metrics, Boyd is the superior pitcher. He outpaced Maeda in 2019 in innings pitched, strikeout rate, walk rate, and fWAR. He’s under team control for several years and is two years younger than the Japanese import. Maeda was deemed to be worth Graterol in a straight-up trade, establishing the market value for controllable starters as a prospect of similar esteem as Marsh (the most recent scouting reports from FanGraphs give each player a 50 Future Value grade).
In short, thanks to Boston’s determination to move their best player, there has never been a better time for the Tigers and Angels to strike a deal involving Matthew Boyd.