Did next SF Giants pitching transformation target just become available?

Andrew Haynes
Detroit Tigers v Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers v Cincinnati Reds / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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In just three seasons under the regime of President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, the SF Giants have earned a reputation as an organization on the forefront of re-defining a pitcher's career. From Drew Pomeranz turning good peripherals into success with the Milwaukee Brewers after a mid-season trade in 2019 to Drew Smyly in 2020 and Kevin Gausman in 2020-21, multiple pitchers have parlayed successful stints in San Francisco into larger free agent deals.

Did next SF Giants pitching transformation target just become available?

This offseason, the Giants have been considered strong contenders for multiple established and even ace-level starting pitchers, but they have yet to woo one of those into a contract. They have filled three of their four starting rotation spots behind Logan Webb by re-signing Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood and adding Alex Cobb, though it is unknown whether any of those three will be able to handle a full season's workload.

With one clear open spot and a likely need for strong depth, it is expected that Zaidi and co will pick up a few reclamation projects to try to see what sticks. After Tuesday's deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players, a new name has entered the fray as a possibility.

As announced on the Detroit Tigers' Twitter account, left-handed starter Matthew Boyd was not tendered a contract, making him a free agent.

A sixth-round pick in 2013 by the Toronto Blue Jays, Boyd reached the Major Leagues in 2015 and was traded to Detroit later that same year. For the next half-decade, Boyd tantalized fans and analysts with his raw stuff but was unable to consistently turn in good performances.

Despite a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio and often solid - if not outstanding - hit rate, Boyd's career numbers have suffered. A 4.96 career ERA, 90 ERA+ and 4.69 FIP are all below-average, and one of the main culprits had been the gopher ball.

Entering 2021, Boyd had allowed an average of 1.7 HR/9 in the big leagues, with two partial seasons showing over 2.0. His best had been a 1.2 mark in 2017, but that year he had other issues and finished with a 5.27 ERA.

This past season, Boyd made 15 starts - all but two coming before mid-June. He missed a chunk of time in the middle of the season and finally most of September after a short return thanks to an injury requiring flexor tendon surgery, but a 3.89 ERA and 1.0 HR/9 were his best for a season of any length in the majors.

Boyd draws similarities in background to Gausman. The latter was a high draft pick who was rushed to the Major Leagues by the Baltimore Orioles but never delivered on the promise of his status as a first-round pick.

Gausman, after pitching for three different teams in the two seasons before becoming a Giant, had a 4.30 ERA and suffered gopher ball-itis, giving up 1.3 per nine innings through 2019. His walk rate was almost the same as Boyd's (2.8 for Gausman, 2.7 for Boyd), and he struck out less batters (8.3/9 for Gausman, 8.7 for Boyd).

We know what happened next: Gausman streamlined his pitch usage with the Giants and lowered his walk rate, hit rate and home-run rate while improving the strikeout rate over two years in orange and black, earning an All-Star nod and finally signing a five-year, $110-million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays just days ago.

Boyd will be out for an undetermined amount of time while rehabbing from his September surgery, but he an intriguing candidate for many teams to attempt to "fix". If he signs with the Giants shows consistency in his attack, a return to help the ballclub down the stretch in 2022 could be a big shot in the arm.

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