The Phillies as they currently stand are built to compete. The problem is that there are other teams out there also built to compete and they are perhaps built a little bit better, a tad more competitive, as it were. It hurts to hear but feelings don’t change facts. Like any problem the first step to overcoming it is admitting it. The second step is remedying it.
And that is what the midseason trade market is for.
One thing that’s become clear so far this season is that the Phillies need another starter. The offense has been good and it really hasn’t even all clicked at the same time yet. The relievers have been so injured it’s a bit hard to get a read on them but the basics of a really good bullpen are there, underneath all the triage bandages and ice packs.
But starting pitching has been an issue. Eflin has been solid, PIvetta seems to realize the direness of his situation and is approaching solid, Arrieta has been up and down and no one is really sure where Aaron Nola is. Vince Velasquez may have worn out his welcome as his never-ending unrealized potential is quickly transforming to “he just doesn’t have it.” The team needs a starter. Badly.
There are plenty of names out there that have been floated but one not heard enough is Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers. There are several good reasons why the Phillies should spend the prospect currency to acquire Boyd, who may not come cheap.
Boyd was the closest thing to a centerpiece in the deal that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays in July of 2015. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Blue Jays in 2013 out of Oregon State and proceeded to mostly dominate in the minors. All told he spent five seasons in the minors and pitched to a 2.49 ERA, averaging a strikeout an inning, 2.2 BB/9, and a 1.003 WHIP. He was a helluva prospect, depite not making any of the esteemed top 100 lists.
Boyd has been in the Majors on and off for five seasons now and he hasn’t experienced quite the same success. He has 548.2 innings logged at the highest level and a pretty bad 4.79 ERA.
He has, however had a much better year so far in 2019.
He’s found something this season and that something has him as one of the best pitchers in the sport. His 3.00 FIP is tenth in baseball, his 6.59 K/BB is fourth and his 1.08 WHIP is tied for 14th with, among others, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. All this while having some bad luck in the batted ball statistics where his .308 BABIP is 24th worst in baseball.
Boyd is also under team control until 2023 so any trade for him will make him a Phillie for potentially quite some time. This fits in with the Phillies long term plans of not only being competitive now but staying competitive for years to come. Of course, this is also what will contribute most to cost of acquiring Boyd but if you’re getting a long term piece back giving up a prospect becomes a lot less painful.
Boyd is not young however. At 28 now the Phillies would be acquiring his services through age 31. At some level though Boyd should be considered a late bloomer in the Jake Arrieta vein. Arrieta was 27 with a very similar track record to Boyd’s when the Chicago Cubs acquired him and he went on to have five pretty amazing years where he won both a Cy Young award and World Series Championship.
The question that needs to be answered here is “Is Matthew Boyd’s 2019 an anomaly or can he maintain this success.” It’s a gamble to be sure as the last thing you want to do is give up a package of prospects for a pitcher who isn’t helping you win. But Boyd’s success hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere. In January of this year the Detroit News wrote a piece on Boyds “transformative” offseason and predicted that he would turn a corner this season. There are some documented changes that he’s made that can be used to explain how he’s managed to improve so drastically and those are best illustrated by a breakdown done by FanGraphs. If you can definitively correlate changes to results then those results should be consistent and repeatable…at least as long as you don’t regress to what you were doing before those changes (cough…Maikel Franco…cough).
The Phillies need someone like Boyd. If they’re serious about building a competitive team for the future then Boyd isn’t just some stopgap rental that may help you get to the postseason this year and then hits the open market. He’s a piece that can perhaps be part of a long term plan. His somewhat shaky track record should offset the value of financial control, at least to a degree, and if he can maintain anywhere near what he’s doing this year he’d be worth whatever it costs to get him.