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Yankees potential trade partner: Detroit Tigers

Is this the year the Yankees finally deal for one of the Tigers pitchers?

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It seems like every year around the trade deadline, the Yankees are linked to one of the Tigers’ starting pitchers. Is this the season the two teams finally link up for an impact deal? The last trade between the two sides I can remember saw Justin Wilson dealt to Detroit for Chad Green and Luis Cessa — coincidentally, all three wear pinstripes now — but the Yankees first have to determine if they themselves will be buying or selling at the deadline.

If New York are buyers, Detroit has some arms that could intrigue the Yankees. They also have a few veteran role players putting together productive seasons should the Yankees be in the market for position player depth. The Tigers will certainly be sellers, so let’s take a look at the players who could be moved.

Matthew Boyd is a name most around here are doubtlessly familiar with, considering he has been linked to the Yankees in each of the last few seasons. Memorably, in 2019 the Tigers asked for Gleyber Torres in exchange for Boyd, which swiftly ended negotiations. Is this finally the season the Yankees pull the trigger on a deal for the 30-year-old lefty?

Boyd has been putting together a quality year, with a 3.44 ERA though his first 13 starts. He is due for some regression, considering he is at or near the top of the league in flyball and home run rates every year. In a small sample, he has cut his home run per fly ball rate in half, and that is likely to creep back toward his career norms.

None of this matters, however, if he can’t get healthy before July 31. He was lifted from his June 14 start with an arm injury that has since been described as elbow discomfort. He was shut down for a month minimum at the time. If he can make a full recovery, his improved performance and team control through 2022 could entice teams to bite.

Boyd’s former rotation mate Michael Fulmer could also draw some interest. The 2016 Rookie of the Year winner has dealt with major injuries in his career, including a torn meniscus in 2018 and Tommy John Surgery in 2019. These forced the former starter to find a new life in the bullpen, a role he has embraced to the tune of a 3.62 ERA and almost 30 percent strikeout rate in 27.1 innings of relief.

The Yankees actually tried to trade for Fulmer in the 2018 offseason, offering a package similar to their offer for Gerrit Cole, only to see the Tigers reject it. Like Boyd, Fulmer is currently on the IL as he deals with a neck injury. He will have to demonstrate full health to draw teams in, and even then his litany of injuries could scare suitors off. That said, his extra year of team control, low cost, and potential to be stretched out back to a starter are all intriguing selling points.

The third starter the Yankees could target is Jose Ureña. Ureña signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal in the offseason, and got off to a promising start before cooling off considerably. He owned a 3.60 ERA through his first seven starts including a seven inning, three hit, two run, seven strikeout gem against the Yankees. Things haven’t gone so well in his last seven, as he sports an ugly 9.31 ERA with a -2.1 percent K-BB%. Any inquiring team would have to determine which version they are more likely to see going forward.

If the Yankees aren’t interested in Detroit’s starters, the Tigers have a trio of relievers who could be made available. Derek Holland is a veteran reliever with a decent track record, but is currently on the IL with shoulder inflammation and owns a 9.60 ERA on the year. Buck Farmer has an extra year of team control, but only a marginally better 9.16 ERA. José Cisnero is the most appealing option, but will also cost the most. He owns a 2.91 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 34 innings and is under control through 2023, but at 32 is unlikely to be a part of the Tigers’ long term plans.

Finally, should the Yankees be more interested in positional depth than pitching reinforcements, Detroit has two veterans who have boosted their stock this season. Robbie Grossman is signed to a two-year, $10-million deal, can play all three outfield spots, and has been serviceable at the plate with a .725 OPS and 100 wRC+. And who could forget his May 28 extra-innings walk-off home run off Justin Wilson that sparked their eventual sweep of the Yankees?

In the infield, Jonathan Schoop is having a career renaissance in Detroit. The former Oriole had a huge year in 2017 in Baltimore, with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, and a 12th-place MVP finish. He never quite returned to the heights of that season, and has bounced around between the Brewers, Twins, and now Tigers. He has a 115 wRC+ with 15 home runs so far this season, and is signed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

The Tigers clearly have some pieces that could impact a team with playoff inspirations without requiring a sky-high package in return. They just graduated a promising trio of starting pitchers in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning to the big leagues, so they would likely be looking for young position players at or near MLB-level. The Yankees’ top hitting prospects are probably a little farther away than the Tigers are targeting, so it’s difficult to see how the two teams will match up.