DETROIT – The New York Yankees have long been linked to Detroit Tigers trade deadline star Matt Boyd, and that was before their pitching staff allowed 79 runs over the course of eight games.
Tigers general manager Al Avila reportedly had a very high asking price for Boyd the first time he spoke with the Yankees, targeting star infielder Gleyber Torres. While that deal obviously won't happen, Avila could take advantage of New York's pressing need for a reliable starting pitcher.
There were three developments over the weekend that work strongly in the Tigers' favor:
The most important factor is Boyd's resurgence. While his underlying numbers remained strong through the months of June and July, he surrendered 32 earned runs in 47.1 innings over an eight-start stretch. He served up 14 home runs over that stretch and allowed an .872 opponent's OPS, but the swinging strike rate was elite at 15%.
But Boyd has turned it around just in the nick of time, allowing three runs on eight hits and five walks over 12.1 innings last week. He struck out 18 batters and only allowed one home run.
With the trade deadline about 50 hours away, Boyd has re-established himself as the premier starting pitcher available, considering he still has three affordable years of team control remaining.
Yankees pitching struggles
Before the start of the 2019 season, the Yankees figured to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. Not many teams have three potential aces like Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, and the Yankees also have two very solid options in J.A. Happ and Domingo German.
Well, it hasn't worked out this season.
Severino hasn't thrown a pitch due to injury, and Paxton, Tanaka and Happ have been awful. C.C. Sabathia has been average as a final option, but now he's on the injured list, as well.
Only German has been above average for the Yankees this season, and he's allowed 28 earned runs in 41.2 innings since May 26. Opponents have an .868 OPS against German in that span, and he's had disastrous starts of seven and eight earned runs.
Last week was disastrous for the pitching staff against the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees narrowly avoided a four-game sweep in Boston that would have seen the Red Sox close within seven games in the division. In those four games, the Yankees surrendered 44 runs, including 27 by starting pitchers.
During the previous three-game series in Minnesota, the Yankees allowed 27 runs, including 20 by starting pitchers.
With an 8 1/2-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and a nine-game lead over Boston, the Yankees are still comfortably atop the AL East.
But when the playoffs roll around and they have to face pitching staffs such as Houston -- which has two of the league's best pitchers in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole -- or Cleveland -- which will likely have a four-man rotation of Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber by then -- the Yankees are at a major disadvantage.
Shane Greene interest
New York has an elite bullpen anchored by Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning and Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton in setup roles. But you know what's better than four great relievers? That's right: five.
The Yankees have reportedly asked the Tigers about closer Shane Greene, who's certainly been a bit lucky this season but also has the best numbers of any reliever on the market.
Greene has only allowed five earned runs in 37 innings this season, striking out 41 batters and posting a 0.87 WHIP. His 3.74 FIP suggests his 1.22 ERA is due for regression, but that doesn't mean Greene won't be a very useful late-inning reliever.
Most importantly, Greene is a fresh arm for the stretch run and postseason. The Tigers' closer doesn't exactly have the highest usage rate, and as a result, Greene has appeared in just 37 games this season.
The one knock on the Yankees' bullpen might be overuse of their top four options. Ottavino has pitched in 50 games, Kahnle 49, Britton 46 and Chapman 43. They've all eclipsed 40 innings this season.
Possible trade partners
The Yankees will never have a better core of young players than Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Torres to go with MVP candidate D.J. LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion and, eventually, Giancarlo Stanton. It would be very risky not to address the need at starting pitcher before the deadline.
Even if two of the Yankees' starters turn their seasons around, the Yankees will need more help in the rotation. As a bonus, Boyd would be a cheap addition for the No. 2 payroll in baseball.
The Tigers could target 24-year-old outfielder Clint Frazier, who was an elite prospect before being called up to the MLB level. He's an advanced hitter the Tigers could build an offense around, but his defense is suspect.
Detroit is no stranger to poor corner outfield defense, so Frazier might be a perfect fit. He's also under team control until 2024.
Six of the Yankees' top eight prospects are right-handed pitchers, so that's not exactly what the Tigers are looking for. Estevan Florial -- New York's No. 2 prospect and the No. 67 overall prospect in baseball -- could be a target for Avila, but it certainly wouldn't be enough to get Boyd and Greene.
Florial is batting .227 with four home runs, 13 walks and 65 strikeouts in 47 games at Single-A this season.
If the Yankees get desperate and offer a package for Boyd and Greene, it would likely have to include Frazier, Florial and other high-upside prospects ranked lower in the New York system.
That wouldn't be as good as the Tigers landing Kyle Tucker from the Astros, Alex Kirilloff from the Twins or Drew Waters from the Braves, but it would add some potential future sluggers to the organization.