DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers will certainly be sellers at this year's trade deadline, but with reports that they would be willing to part with budding ace Matt Boyd, their sights should be on some of the top hitting prospects in baseball.
Ken Rosenthal, of The Athletic, wrote last week that the Tigers would move Boyd for a "premium young hitter" to go with the young pitching depth in the organization.
Detroit has plenty of promising young pitchers, including Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, Alex Faedo, Beau Burrows, Tarik Skubal and Spencer Turnbull. In terms of everyday players, the Tigers are far away from being a playoff contender.
Earlier this week, we wrote about some young major league hitters the Tigers could target in trades involving Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene. But if Boyd is being added to a deal, general manager Al Avila can target almost every hitting prospect in the league.
Recent trade trends
Why is Boyd such a valuable trade chip? Take a look at some of the recent trade deadline deals involving starting pitchers and top prospects.
Jose Quintana trade
Perhaps the best example is the July 2017 trade that sent Jose Quintana across Chicago from the White Sox to the Cubs in exchange for Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and two other prospects.
Quintana was having a solid season with the White Sox at the time of the trade, but most importantly, he was signed for two additional seasons with a team option for a third season at a reasonable price.
Boyd is having a much better 2019 season than Quintana's 2017 season, which should make up for the difference in their track records. Boyd is under team control through the 2022 season, which means a potential suitor would get three full seasons of Boyd in addition to the rest of 2019.
The Tigers aren't offering a half-season rental. They're offering a possible high-end starting pitcher for the next 3 1/2 seasons.
At the time of the Quintana trade, Jimenez was the No. 5 prospect in baseball and the No. 2 outfielder. Cease was the No. 58 prospect in baseball.
In other words, the White Sox got a massive haul for a pitcher in a similar situation as Boyd.
Chris Archer trade
Last year's Chris Archer trade is another good example. The Tampa Bay Rays sent Archer to Pittsburgh for Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows.
Like Quintana, Archer was traded with up to three additional years of control remaining. He was signed for $7.6 million this year and has cheap team options for both 2020 and 2021.
Archer is a bigger name than Boyd, but he's only had one true standout season. Over the last four seasons, Boyd (6.4 WAR) has actually been more valuable than Archer (4.9 WAR). MLB front offices are funneling tons of money into analytics these days, so they know Boyd's comparative value.
Both Meadows and Glasnow had graduated from prospect status, but Meadows was the No. 17 overall prospect in 2017 and Glasnow was No. 8 overall in 2016, so both were elite young talents.
Clearly, if the Tigers trade Boyd with three additional years of team control, they should get an excellent return.
Here are three examples of the types of the deals Avila should target.
Trade 1: Boyd, Castellanos to Houston Astros
Details: The Tigers trade Boyd and Castellanos to the Astros for Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher and Luis Santana.
Houston was Avila's trade parter last time he had one of the top pitchers on the trade block, and the Astros could compatible once again.
At the start of the season, the Astros were expected to have a deep and reliable starting rotation, but that hasn't been the case. Other than Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, two of the best in the game, there are a ton of question marks for the defending American League West Division champs.
Wade Miley has been solid through eight starts, but his terrible strikeout rate and low ceiling don't inspire much long-term confidence. Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh have both been very good options in the past, but the transition from bullpen to starting rotation hasn't gone smoothly so far this year.
The Astros will never have a better core of players than they do right now: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer. Boyd would join Verlander and Cole to give them a very good trio of starting pitchers for the next few years, which is when their window to win another World Series is open the widest.
Castellanos would also be a perfect option to play some right field and designated hitter for the Astros, who use Josh Reddick against right-handers but could upgrade the lineup against lefties. Right now, manager A.J. Hinch rotates Springer over to right field and starts Jake Marisnick in center field against left-handed pitchers.
Reddick is a good defensive player with a strong arm who owns an .844 OPS against righties. He's only 4-16 against lefties, though, which is Castellanos' specialty. From 2016 to 2018, Castellanos posted an .880 OPS and .535 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.
Kyle Tucker would be the prized piece of the return. He's the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball and the No. 2 outfield prospect. He just turned 22 in January, so his timeline would match up well with the Tigers' looming crop of pitching prospects.
Tucker has had mixed results in Triple-A this season, hitting nine home runs and slugging .496 but posting a .212 batting average and poor strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also struggled in a 28-game stint with the Astros last season.
In his career, Tucker has owned the minor leagues, posting an .844 OPS with 70 home runs, 102 doubles, 96 stolen bases and a .351 on-base percentage in 431 games.
Four of the five hitting prospects ranked above Tucker are already on major league rosters, so Tucker would soon be an offensive player around which the Tigers could build their offense.
Derek Fisher is already on the Astros' roster, but he doesn't get much playing time. He has spent parts of the last three seasons in Houston, getting only 253 at-bats.
He's no longer a prospect, but before Fisher got called up in 2017 he was Houston's No. 5 prospect and the No. 84 overall prospect in baseball.
Fisher has a tantalizing power-speed combination that the Tigers' current roster is lacking. He has 82 home runs and 106 stolen bases in his minor-league career while posting a .857 OPS and 252 walks to 504 strikeouts.
Fisher isn't a very strong defensive outfielder, but Tucker has the potential to be a plus defender at a corner outfield spot.
Luis Santana is Houston's No. 20 prospect, but he's only 19 years old and profiles as a second baseman with a valuable combination of contact skills and decent power. Santana is still several years away from the majors, but his approach at the plate is advanced for a teenager and he could be an asset when the team is ready to contend in a few years.
Trade 2: Boyd to San Diego Padres
Details: The Tigers trade Boyd to the Padres for Luis Urias and Josh Naylor.
San Diego has an embarrassment of riches in the minor leagues, including nine players ranked in baseball's top 85 prospects and 15 that received overall rankings of at least 50 by MLB Pipeline.
The Tigers and Padres might not be perfect trade partners because seven of those nine top 100 prospects are pitchers, and the Tigers will be targeting position players in a Boyd trade. San Diego might also decide to try out one of those prospects as opposed to trading away hitters for Boyd.
Right now, though, it looks like the Padres will need a little help in the starting rotation, and those prospects might not be ready. Boyd is a good match for San Diego because he won't be overly expensive in the next three years, and his fly ball tendencies will fit well in Petco Park.
Chris Paddack looks like a potential ace, but if the Padres are finally ready to make a run at the postseason, will it come with Matt Strahm, Eric Lauer, Nick Margevicius and Joey Lucchesi filling out the rotation? Boyd would definitely be an upgrade.
Luis Urias would be the top prospect coming to Detroit in the deal. He's the No. 22 overall prospect in baseball and the No. 8 middle infield.
Urias is most likely to end up at second base, and he would be the second- or third-best prospect at that position if classified as such. His calling card is an elite hit tool that has allowed him to hit .307 with a .398 OBP in the minors.
He's only 22 years old, but Urias is already showing significant power gains. He's batting .329 with seven home runs, five doubles and three triples in Triple-A with a 1.134 OPS.
While he only went 2-24 in a short stint with San Diego this season, Urias has all the tools to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and excellent defensive second baseman. The Tigers would love to put him up the middle with whoever emerges from the group of young shortstops in the minors.
Josh Naylor isn't a top 100 prospect, but he's the Padres' top hitting prospect behind Fernando Tatis and Urias.
Naylor is a powerful left-handed hitter who could end up at first base or a corner outfield spot. In 34 games this season, he has racked up 12 doubles and eight homers while walking more often than he strikes out.
At 21 years old, Naylor has advanced plate discipline and very few holes in his swing. He won't be a very good fielder, but his .965 OPS suggests he'll be a middle-of-the-order bat and consistent run producer.
Naylor was traded for Andrew Cashner after a strange prank incident in the Miami Marlins organization, but that shouldn't be much of a concern.
If the Tigers could pull off this trade, they would likely add two starting-caliber players who could be difference makers in the future.
Trade 3: Boyd, Greene to Washington Nationals
Details: The Tigers trade Boyd and Greene to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom, Yasel Antuna and Telmito Agustin.
Mike Rizzo has never been afraid to make big moves, and that could work in the Tigers' favor if the Nationals don't fall out of contention before the trade deadline.
Right now, the Nationals are 6.5 games out of first place but have stayed afloat despite injuries to Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto already this season.
When Turner and Soto rejoin Rendon in the lineup, the Nationals are good enough to compete for the National League West Division title.
Washington has one of the best starting pitching trios in MLB with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, but the final two spots are a mess. Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson are currently manning those spots, but they've been terrible, and Rizzo can't stick with them much longer and hope to keep pace with the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.
Boyd would be a perfect fit to slide in behind those top three pitchers and give the Nationals an even stronger rotation. Greene would also be a welcome addition to a bullpen that's had Tigers-like ineptitude the last several years.
Sean Doolittle has the Nationals' closer spot locked down, and Kyle Barraclough has been a reliable setup man. But beyond those two, Nationals fans are on the edge of their seats when the starters come out.
Greene is in the midst of a breakout season after proving he could be a reliable bullpen arm in 2017. He made 71 appearances that season, striking out more than a batter per inning, before a terrible 2018 season.
This year, he has allowed just eight hits, four walks and three runs in 16 innings while striking out 20 batters. Greene has converted all 13 save chances, so he's used to high-leverage situations.
Carter Kieboom is Washington's top prospect and was just demoted after an unsuccessful first taste of major league action. The 21-year-old is the No. 23 prospect in baseball and the No. 5 shortstop prospect.
Kieboom is raking in the minor leagues, hitting .371 with a .500 OBP and .657 slugging. He has drawn 17 walks compared to 20 strikeouts while racking up six doubles, four home runs and 26 total hits in 19 games.
He's an elite offensive prospect and a good defender who could play either middle infield spot in the future.
Yasel Antuna would likely end up at third base for the Tigers due to their depth at shortstop. He hasn't played in 2019 due to injury, but profiles as a good power hitter with speed.
Only 19 years old, Antuna is Washington's No. 7 prospect and would have plenty of time to develop before the Tigers need him at the MLB level.
Telmito Agustin is considered an average-hitting outfielder with good speed, but he's also shown signs of improved plate discipline and power.
Agustin has a .756 OPS in six minor league seasons with 73 stolen bases and 126 extra-base hits. If the Tigers can get him as the third prospect in this deal, there's a chance it could reap huge benefits down the line.
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