Blue Jays: Time For A Matt Boyd Reunion?

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 27: Matt Boyd #46 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers on June 27, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 27: Matt Boyd #46 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers on June 27, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Would Matt Boyd be a good trade target for the Jays, and is now the time to dip into the prospect pool?

The Blue Jays are starting to come together.  Bo is finally up in the bigs (and hitting to a holy-cow-batman 207 wRC+ in his first few games). Vladdy is finally comfortable at the plate (with a 147 wRC+ in his last 30 games).  Danny, Teo, and Lourdes are playing well, and in the minors, Rowdy has a 1.072 OPS at Buffalo and Nate has a 2.54 ERA, is off his innings limit in New Hampshire, and seems primed for a late-season promotion to triple-A.

The future is bright.

The only dark lining to this silver cloud is the pitching, particularly the rotation.  Nate could easily be up in 2020, but the other possible top-of-rotation candidates (Manoah, Woods Richardson, Pardinho, maybe Kloffenstein) are still several years away.  While the Jays have plenty of possible #4-5 rotation candidates, if they hope to be wild card contenders in 2020 and serious contenders in 2021, their greatest need is arguably another top arm.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

The most obvious way to get that arm would be through free agency.  But the FA classes in 2019-20 and 2020-21 are light on top arms (with the possible exception of Cole in 2019-20, for whom there will be huge competition).  And Toronto has historically had difficulty in attracting top FAs anyway, particularly pitchers who see pitching in the AL East as a recipe for disaster.

So the next most likely answer is trade.

Thing is, there are not a lot of pitchers who are clear #1s with multiple years of team control and who are potentially available for trade.  In fact, I can only (realistically) think of one.

Let’s talk about Matt Boyd.

Boyd was a pedestrian starter for the first four years of his career, with a 4.97 ERA (4.56 SIERA).  But in 2019 a tweak to his slider turned it from a gift (opponents batting .379 against it) to a weapon (in 2019, opponents are only batting .185 against it).  So far this year, Boyd’s 3.23 SIERA is 5th best in baseball (qualified starters).  Now, some writers are suggesting that 2019 might be an aberration (can you say Aaron Sanchez 2016?) but others are saying that it is more 2018, Patrick Corbin.

Suppose (“for the sake of the argument”, as we Irish say!) that the Jays believe that Boyd really is a TOR starter.  The first question is whether now is the time to trade for him.  Should the Jays wait until the 2020-21 offseason to go shopping?  My view is that it is relatively rare that a player like Boyd comes available, and that Jays would be wise to carpe the diem.

Detroit has said that they would need one of two things to consider a Boyd trade.  The first option is a budding young superstar like Gleyber Torres.  Forget that one.  If we aren’t trading Vladdy or Bo for Christian Yelich, we aren’t trading them for Matt Boyd.  The second option is a package of prospects similar to the Jose Quintana trade in 2017.  In that trade, the Cubs gave up Eloy Jimenez (then BA’s #14 prospect) + Dylan Cease (BA#97) plus two other “interesting” prospects.

Suppose we were to apply that template to the Jays.

I would argue that Boyd, with a single outstanding season, is a lesser value than Quintana was in 2017.  Jose was coming off four straight years of 200+ innings and a 4+ WAR.  So suppose we downgrade the package to a top-50 prospect, a possible future top-100, and two lottery tickets?  And suppose we say that the Tigers are in full rebuild mode, so they would prefer players who project to be MLB-ready in 2021 or 2022 rather than ready-now assets?

Brace yourselves.  This is going to hurt a little.

The only Jays top-50 prospect not named Nate or Bo is Jordan Groshans, BA#43.  Jordan is mashing at low-A ball, with a 165 wRC+.  And if the Tigers are looking for a second potential top 100 who also has a 2021+ ETA, how about Jordan’s high school teammate, Adam Kloffenstein, with his 2.27 ERA so far in Vancouver?  As for the two lottery tickets, how about some combination of Elvis Luciano/Samad Taylor/Otto Lopez/Tanner Morris?

There are of course numerous ways to skin this cat.  Would Detroit be interested in a more MLB-ready prospect – like a Reese McGuire or Anthony Alford?    What if the Jays also took on Jordan Zimmerman, and the $25 million he is owed in 2020?  Would the Tigers have interest in a red-hot Teo Hernandez (144 wRC+ in the last 30 days), or perhaps in a Billy McKinney (119 wRC+ in his last 30 days) if they continue to perform for the remainder of 2019?

Next. Looking at the catching ranks throughout the system. dark

The bottom line

I am not generally a fan of trading prospects.  The exception, in my book, is when the player received in exchange has extended team control and fits a particular need for a team ready to contend.  Matt Boyd could well be that exception.  The acquisition cost would hurt, but he might well be worth it.

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