At last year’s trade deadline in July, the Toronto Blue Jays stunned the baseball world when they acquired star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. It wasn’t made public that Tulo was being shopped, but with the Colorado Rockies in rebuilding mode, they decided it was time to move the face of the franchise. While Rockies fans miss Tulo, the record start that his replacement Trevor Story has been on makes everyone feel a bit better.
Tulowitzki had been with the Rockies his entire career before being shipped north of the border a season ago. The Blue Jays were considered to be legitimate contenders to win the World Series after trading for Tulowitzki and ace lefty David Price, but they came up short in the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals.
Tulowitzki batted .239 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 41 games for Toronto in 2015. He also suffered a cracked shoulder in September that kept him out for a few weeks.
In 2016, the Blue Jays are looking to resolve some unfinished business, but on May 10, the team is right at .500 and in fourth place in the American League East. Despite their ranking in the standings, they are only 3.0 games out of first place, which belongs to the Baltimore Orioles. One of the main headlines surrounding the team is the rocky start that Tulo has had. In 31 games, Tulowitzki has a .162 average, with a team-high 36 strikeouts.
There is still a lot left to the season, but this cannot be the start that Tulowitzki or the team had envisioned. When he first arrived in Toronto, he was batting leadoff, which now seemed to be more of an experiment than a long-term reality. Manager John Gibbons continues to maneuver Tulo in the lineup to try to get him going, but that has not been able to give him a spark. Tulo has struggled so mightily that Gibbons decided to drop him to the sixth spot in the order, behind Justin Smoak.
Tulowitzki has not been the kind of player he was in Colorado, and if the Blue Jays want any chance to go deep in the postseason, Tulowitzki has to find a way to get out of this slump. Tulowitzki does not deserve all the blame, though, as Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion have not been playing their top baseball either. Starting rotation depth behind Marcus Stroman entering the season was a major question mark, but J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada have been able to silence those critics with a combined ERA of 2.57. The starting pitchers are doing their part, but the Blue Jays’ strength — their offense — will need to play to their potential.
Tulowitzki still has four years and $74 million remaining on his deal after this season with a team option worth $15 million in 2021, so trading him and his monster contract do not seem like a viable option. It’s not time to write off Tulowitzki, but if this becomes consistent, it will be time to panic, and Toronto will face the thought that they might not have gotten the player they thought they would.