Guardians looking for southpaw Boyd to ‘boost rotation’ when ready

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KANSAS CITY — The Guardians have started to try to chip away at their lack of starting pitching depth.

Cleveland has signed lefty starter Matthew Boyd, the club announced on Saturday. Boyd had been a free agent since the offseason as he recovered from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last June.

Because Boyd, who was placed on the 15-day injured list, is still in the thick of his rehab, he probably won’t be ready to join the big league rotation until August.

“We don’t have a specific timetable at this point,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said, “but Matt’s been a very effective Major League starter when he is healthy and we believe he can be a boost to our rotation, and add some depth for us as we advance here through the season.”

Boyd’s deal is only through the 2024 season, so he’ll solely be here to provide an extra starting option down the home stretch of the season. It may not sound like much, but it could be a relatively low-risk move that could provide some reward.

The risks obviously include Boyd’s medical history. He hasn’t pitched since last June and even before his season-ending injury, Boyd was experiencing a pretty lackluster season with a 5.45 ERA in 15 starts.

But the Guardians don’t know how much Boyd’s elbow was contributing to those results. So, if he can eat up innings, which is what this rotation has struggled to do this year, at the affordable rate he’d charge given his situation, there could be a high reward to this addition.

“Matt is chomping at the bit,” Antonetti said. “He’s a hyper competitive guy. He’s put in a ton of work in the rehab process and he’s excited to get back into a competitive setting in the Major League environment. … I think we’re all aligned that our best guess at this point will be at some point in August, he’ll be able to join our rotation.”

This doesn’t mean that the Guardians are no longer on the hunt for starting pitching at the Trade Deadline. Depending on how many starters are actually on the trade market, this could just be some insurance to give them some depth before a bigger move is made.

The Guardians will see what Boyd can provide. Maybe he can get back into his high-strikeout ways like when he fanned 238 batters over 185 1/3 innings in 2019. In 15 starts for Detroit in ’21, he owned a 3.89 ERA, but he was again derailed by arm injuries that resulted in flexor tendon surgery.

“I’ve faced him a few times and he knows how to pitch,” Cleveland manager Stephen Vogt said. “It’s a guy that’s been a successful starter in the big leagues and we’re excited to have him. He looked good and he’s getting built up. Obviously, when he finishes his rehab, he’ll be an option for us.”

The Guardians know that they need extra starting options. Gavin Williams needs to be added to the roster before Sunday’s series finale in Kansas City and will soon be back in Cleveland’s rotation, but Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen haven’t been as consistent as hoped for by the club.

And with Shane Bieber out for the year and not many hurlers close to ready for a callup at Triple-A, Cleveland has to find other answers.

It’s impossible to know what to expect from Boyd, given his situation and how long it’s been since he’s faced big league hitters. But the Guardians can root for the best-case scenario, which would be the southpaw consistently eating up innings once he’s ready to pitch to take some pressure off an overtaxed bullpen.