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Braves Trade Deadline Targets: Matthew Boyd

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With the Braves are in the market for starting pitching, Matthew Boyd is a logical target. Will the Braves bite despite his limited track record?

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The 2019 Trade Deadline will have a different feel than in recent years, as the Braves currently hold a seven-game lead in the division at the midpoint of July. The numbers and the eye-test back up the notion that this Braves team is ready to contend, but the extent of their willingness to push all-in may be a determinant of whether or not they make a serious run in October. The club is deeper and more talented than they were a year ago, and it is understandable why fans are clamoring for Atlanta to be aggressive in trying to augment an already talented roster.

With that in mind, we look at a potential trade target that would satisfy those who wish to see the Braves be aggressive for the stretch run, in addition to those with an eye toward sustained competitiveness in the seasons that follow. With three years of control remaining after the 2019 season, Matthew Boyd would give the Braves an immediate upgrade in the rotation while cementing a place in that same rotation through the 2022 season. Sounds great, right? Let’s examine what Boyd could bring to the table, in addition to the price tag attached to his acquisition, which figures to be very high.

What’s he done so far?

Boyd has a limited track record of success, as his career-best FIP prior to this season was 4.45 in 2018. The issues that plagued the left-hander prior to his minor improvement last season were simply an inability to limit hits, as he gave up well over one per inning in 2017. Those numbers improved last season, as did Boyd’s strikeout rate, which helped him produce a 2 fWAR season for the first time in his career. While that may be modest, the improved ability to miss bats pointed to a potential breakout for Boyd, and that has certainly come to fruition thus far in 2019.

As of this writing, Boyd owns a 3.47 FIP with 12 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, and a 37.1% ground ball rate. The major culprit behind Boyd owning a 3.95 ERA has been home runs allowed, with 16.1% of fly balls resulting in home runs. Boyd is a good candidate for positive regression in that department, as his 3.34 xFIP more accurately reflects how he would be affected by home runs with a league-average home runs per fly ball. With 3 fWAR already earned, Boyd is well-positioned to post a five-win season in 2019, a feat only accomplished by 11 pitchers in all of baseball in 2018.

Is Boyd capable of posting K/9 rates north of 12 consistently? A half-season may be enough to suggest that he can, but paying the prospect cost that will buy three years of Boyd makes that proposition much more risky for any club.

Years of control remaining?

As mentioned above, Boyd is under team control through the 2022 season, meaning any team acquiring the left-hander would be doing so with any eye toward competing beyond this October. That opens up the possibility for teams on the back-end of rebuilding to acquire Boyd with an eye toward competing in 2020. Should the Braves acquire Boyd, they would do so with the knowledge that his salary will increase annually from 2020-2022, assuming they decide to tender him each season.

Why is he going to be dealt?

The Tigers are not a good team, and while they have some intriguing prospects ascending through their ranks, their contention window is not likely to match up with Boyd’s contractual control. Boyd has been somewhat of a surprise this season, and while his abilities may be an asset for Detroit, the prospect haul they could receive would likely carry more value. Building up a farm system that currently ranks in the middle of the pack has to be a priority, especially for a team with so little talent at the major league level. Targeting players with an ETA similar to top prospect Casey Mize could make sense as Detroit looks to build their next wave of talent.

Why do the Braves need him?

Boyd brings the ability to miss bats to an Atlanta starting rotation that is lacking in that particular area. As Ivan noted in the Bumgarner piece, the Braves do not “need” anything, but could benefit from adding another arm. In addition to his abilities, Boyd’s dexterity could provide an advantage against a team like the Dodgers, who feature multiple potent left-handed bats. Aside from those fringe benefits, the Braves would simply benefit from having Boyd as a fixture in the rotation for the next three-plus seasons assuming he replicates his production from the first-half of this season.

One other factor that could affect Boyd coming to Atlanta is his history with Alex Anthopoulos, who drafted the left-hander as the GM in Toronto. Anthopoulos later traded Boyd to the Tigers in the deal that sent David Price to the Blue Jays, but that familiarity could make Anthopoulos more comfortable in acquiring his former sixth-round selection.

Why might he be a poor fit?

The major concern for Boyd is hardly fit, but reliability. Nobody fits if they are unable to perform at a high level, and Boyd has a very limited track record in that regard. Investing major prospect capital into a pitcher with only a half-season of solid production is a tough sell, especially given the deep pipeline of pitchers the Braves have compiled. Boyd would be an upgrade over the current internal options for fifth starter this season, but are his subsequent seasons enough of an upgrade over internal options to warrant the prospect cost? That will be a key determination for the Braves front office to make before acquiring Boyd, as a player whose contract expires at the end of this season would likely require a much lesser package.

What will the likely cost be?

Speaking of that prospect package that could potentially be headed to Detroit, who would be on the move from the Braves farm system?

According to Baseball Trade Values (https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trade-simulator/) the surplus value for Boyd is somewhere between $29.4 million and $39.4 million, with a median of $34.4 million. That makes Boyd a very valuable commodity, and one that will require a hefty package from Atlanta. For reference, here are some median surplus values for Braves prospects/players (in millions):

Drew Waters- $42.3

Ian Anderson- $38.1

Johan Camargo- $28.5

Kyle Wright- $23.5

Sean Newcomb- $19.9

Bryse Wilson- $18.9

Kyle Muller- $18.6

You can find the rest of the Braves surplus values at the link above, but this should provide some context for what Matthew Boyd would net in trade. The Braves and Tigers could obviously value these players differently, but regardless the Braves would likely have to give up multiple solid prospects.

There you have it, a simple synopsis of what Matthew Boyd would bring and what the Braves would have to ship out to acquire him. Boyd is hardly the only starter on the market, and should the Braves opt to pay a lesser price they could pursue rentals more aggressively than Boyd, but he would represent an immediate upgrade for a likely playoff-bound Atlanta team. Stay tuned as rumors will certainly be flying over the next two weeks, with Boyd guaranteed to be a subject of conjecture.