SAN DIEGO -- Matthew Boyd threw fastballs or sliders on 86 percent of his pitches this past season. His offseason has the potential for a lot of curveballs and changeups.
When Tigers general manager Al Avila talks about building up Detroit's roster and not having to trade anybody, it should be a relief to Boyd, who spent most of last summer at the center of trade rumors.
"I'm not out there trying to sell Matt Boyd," Avila said. "We need Matt Boyd right now to be a good team."
And yet, as the free-agent pitching market escalates, Avila is expecting interest in Boyd. The GM isn't ruling out the idea of dealing him if an offer makes the team better immediately -- not four years in the future, or even in two years, but right now.
"We're not here calling up every team and saying, 'Hey, do you want Boyd?' That's not what we're here to do," Avila said. "We feel that we want to win more games, we want to be better.
"If a team is interested in Matt Boyd, and obviously there's teams that will [be], is it going to make the Detroit Tigers better? And when I say better, not like you're getting a prospect that's in low-A ball or Rookie ball. It's going to have to really make sense."
That type of offer wasn't out there -- not in Avila's view -- when the Tigers held onto Boyd last July at the Trade Deadline. Detroit was searching for the type of high-level prospect package the White Sox received when they traded José Quintana to the Cubs in 2017. No team came close.
Boyd had a 3.94 ERA and 178 strikeouts over 132 1/3 innings at the time. He posted a 6.11 ERA and allowed a .913 OPS over the final two months -- yielding 17 home runs over 53 innings -- to seemingly cool his offseason market. The Tigers have no interest in selling low on Boyd and were seemingly more interested in a long-term contract to provide cost-certainty to his three remaining seasons of team control.
Avila said Monday that the Tigers haven't been in touch with Boyd or agent Scott Boras about a new contract. That isn't unusual; the Tigers traditionally address contracts with top arbitration-eligible players in January, before the deadline to exchange salary proposals. And Boras, as the agent for most of the top free agents on the market, including former Detroit slugger Nicholas Castellanos, has more pressing issues to handle.
Those free-agent deals could impact how much of a market forms for Boyd. As MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported, teams that miss out on top free agents but still need a pitcher to fill innings could check in on Boyd, who has three seasons remaining before free agency, including 2020.
"We're building now. I don't have to trade anybody right now," Avila said. "The only incentive to trade anybody right now is because we're going to be better through that trade. And when I say better, I mean more immediate."
Boyd, for his part, has said multiple times he'd like to be a part of the Tigers' long-term build-up and play a role in Detroit getting better. He'd rather do that by dealing pitches, not by being dealt for prospects.
Winter Meetings news and notes
• Though Avila didn't confirm a Tuesday report from Heyman that the Tigers were one of a handful of teams in the market for free-agent catcher Robinson Chirinos, Avila indicated the team has cast a wide net. "You could name almost any catcher in free agency," Avila said. "We've had conversations with a few guys."
• Michael Fulmer remains on track for a midseason return as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, Avila said. He's currently working out daily at the Tigers' Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., including throwing from flat ground.
• Mike Rabelo and Andrew Graham will return as managers at Double-A Erie and Class A Advanced Lakeland, respectively, the Tigers announced Tuesday among an update of their Minor League assignments. Former Major League infielder Adam Melhuse joins the organization as Erie's hitting coach, replacing Brian Harper. Melhuse spent the past two seasons as a hitting coach in the Dodgers' farm system, most recently at Double-A Tulsa.