DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers don't have to trade Matt Boyd this week, but there should be plenty of incentive to get a deal done.
Boyd is under team control for another three years, and while that's the main reason he's one of the most costly players available at the deadline, it could also be the reason he doesn't get dealt.
The Tigers could decide to hold onto Boyd if they don't like the hitting prospects they're being offered in return. But there's no guarantee a better situation will arise in the next two years.
Many of the outside factors beyond the Tigers' control have fallen into place to boost Boyd's trade value.
Here are some of the reasons his value has remained high despite his recent on-field inconsistency.
1. San Francisco Giants in contention
One of the most unexpected developments of the second half has been the rise of the Giants, who have won 11 of 14 games against fellow playoff contenders to pull within 3 1/2 games of a wildcard spot.
San Francisco's hot streak helps the Tigers twofold. Not only is another top starting pitcher off the trade market in Madison Bumgarner, but the Giants are also now reportedly interested in Boyd.
Bumgarner is having a strong season, averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a low WHIP and ERA. The fewer high-end starting pitchers on the market, the more teams will need to pay up for Boyd.
The Giants also reportedly sent a scout to Boyd's last start against the Philadelphia Phillies, and he allowed just two runs while striking out eight batters in six innings.
At the All-Star break, it would have been ludicrous to suggest the Giants would keep Bumgarner and trade for another starter. Now, it might even be likely.
2. Tampa Bay Rays still going for it
The Tampa Bay Rays were dealt another massive blow Thursday, announcing reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell would have arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow.
Already without young star Tyler Glasnow, the Rays have had a disastrous week, losing seven of their last nine games. They dropped three of four to the New York Yankees and were nearly swept at home by the Boston Red Sox.
Now 9 1/2 games out of the division and fading quickly, the Rays could decide to stand pat and go for it again next year with Snell and Glasnow healthy. But general manager Erik Neander told the Tampa Bay Times that he hasn't given up on the season.
If the Rays packed it in, Charlie Morton could have become a top starting pitcher on the trade market. Instead, the Rays might be on the lookout for a starter themselves, and they've already been linked to Boyd.
The Tigers' lefty would be a perfect fit for the Rays, who rarely make large free agent signings and would have Boyd under contract for a bargain the next three seasons -- presumably the prime years for Snell and Glasnow.
3. AL Central race heating up
The Cleveland Indians could have been the biggest thorn in the Tigers' side again this trade deadline if they decided to shop starting pitchers Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger.
Instead, the Tribe has nearly erased Minnesota's huge lead in the AL Central and trails by just two games. On top of that, Cleveland is comfortably atop the wildcard standings.
The Indians know their window to contend is closing, so this might be one of their last chances to win a World Series. They wouldn't be in the Boyd sweepstakes, but the fact that they aren't selling elite starting pitchers of their own can only raise the price for Boyd on the market.
4. Deep wildcard races
There aren't a lot of teams good enough to win the World Series, but thanks to the second wildcard spot, there are a dozen still in contention for a playoff spot.
Only 12 teams aren't within 5 1/2 games of a playoff spot, meaning 18 are still in the thick of the race. Sixteen of those 18 are within 3 1/2 games of a playoff spot.
With so many average teams bunched up together, trading for the top pitcher on the market could push one of them over the edge. Working even more in the Tigers' favor is the fact that the wildcard game is such a risk.
Teams battling for a wildcard spot aren't likely to mortgage their future for a three-month rental pitcher, but if they can get a pitcher who gets them into the wildcard game and also helps them contend in the future, that's a move they might consider.
Once the trade dominoes start to fall, there will be pressure on other wildcard teams to make matching moves, because the worst-case scenario for many teams would be sticking with their current roster, missing an opportunity to buy or sell assets and still landing on the wrong side of the playoff race.
The more teams bunched together in the wildcard standings, the better for the Tigers.
5. Teams with bad starting pitchers still winning
It's amazing how many teams are still alive in the playoff race in spite of weak pitching staffs.
Take the St. Louis Cardinals, for example. They're currently rolling with a rotation of Jack Flaherty, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas, yet they're tied for first place in the deep NL Central.
Sure, the Cardinals could hope that Flaherty reverts to his rookie ways, or that Mikolas' absurdly low strikeout rate doesn't catch up to him, or that Hudson and Wainwright continue to be serviceable despite 1.50 and 1.40 WHIPs, respectively.
St. Louis has proven it could get into the playoffs with this pitching staff, but could it actually win a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Atlanta Braves? Probably not.
The Los Angeles Angels are in a similar situation. Just four games out of a wildcard spot, they're using a rotation of Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, Griffin Canning and Felix Pena. Brad Ausmus has had to manage around the tragic death of Tyler Skaggs, an injury to Andrew Heaney and the dropping of Matt Harvey.
Boyd would be by far their best starting pitcher, if they decide to make a move. Helping the case is the Angels' upcoming schedule, with six straight home games against the Baltimore Orioles and the Tigers -- the two worst teams in baseball.
The Angels should be safely in contention through the end of July.
Detroit and Minnesota probably wouldn't pull off an in-division trade, but if that wasn't a road block, Boyd would be a strong No. 2 behind Jose Berrios, who doesn't have much help beyond Jake Odorizzi in a struggling rotation.
Minnesota has the hitting prospects to get the deal done, too.