Lefty Matthew Boyd was a long-time top prospect and potential-laden young arm, who never quite got the results at the big league level that you would’ve expected for his stuff. Even in his “breakout” 2019 season, which featured an excellent 30.2% K rate and 6.3% BB rate, he was sufficiently barreled that he gave up a ton of homers and his ERA was only about league average. From there, he was terrible in the pandemic season, and close to league average in 2021 before a flexor tendon injury ended his season with surgery. He came back with the Mariners for the final month of the 2022 season in relief, where he pitched reasonably well in a very small sample.
OK, that’s a long introductory paragraph that wasn’t intended to just dump on Boyd. Instead, it was to give you the context to appreciate just how much certain price tags are going up this offseason:
Boyd, 32 in February, is a pure reclamation play, especially as a starting pitcher (which is reportedly what the Tigers want him to be again). If he gets back to what he was, at his best, before the surgery, you’re talking about a league-average pitcher. I’m not saying that isn’t worth $10 million plus incentives, but at eight figures, you would normally want a HECKUVA lot more upside than that.
In other words, in this kind of reclamation tier – as we saw with Mike Clevinger getting $12 million from the White Sox – I’m thinking the price tags have gone up from what we were used to seeing. That could be the product of changing tides in the game with respect to both pitching and short-term deals; it could be related to the extra BAMTech money owners got this offseason; or it could just be the normal spiking of salaries that follows a new CBA.
Consider that, of the deals we’ve seen so far – not just reclamation pitchers, but everyone – you could make an argument that several of them were quite a bit higher than many were expecting. Jose Abreu and Rafael Montero with the Astros? Definitely way higher. Anthony Rizzo with the Yankees? Higher than projected. Edwin Diaz and the Mets? Higher than projected, even when accounting for the massive deferrals.
Some northward movement was expected because of the CBA, but I suspect we’ve underrated the climb. And these kinds of reclamation pitchers getting $10+ million is just the latest strong signal.
Expectations must be adjusted, and appropriate price levels need to be recalibrated.