The worse thing you can ever hear when talking about a player is “he’s one of the best players in the league when he’s healthy.” That usually means the player is rarely healthy and therefore not on the field very often. This phrase is often used to describe Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. There’s no arguing his talent, he’s probably the best shortstop in all of baseball and maybe a top five player in the sport…when he’s healthy. Health is something that Tulowitzki has yet to show. As we sit here now, he’s coming off another injury shortened season and a surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, the second major surgery he’s needed for that hip.
A guy like Matt Kemp who has had surgery on his hips was just traded off for pennies on the dollars because the Dodgers feared he may never be the same player again. Alex Rodriguez, also coming off surgery to his hip, is thought to not even be able to play again because of the procedure and his age. Yet, despite all of this, we’re suppose to regard Tulo as the superstar he is when he manages to get on the field.
Kemp is a good comparison for Tulo, both have superstar potential when they’re on the field yet have issues actually stay on it. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at their past seasons and then maybe can shine some light on what is apparently missing. This past season, despite being in a platoon situation for most of the first half of the season, Kemp played in 150 games and was just one at bat shy of 600 for the season. Overall, he hit .287 with 25 home runs and 89 rbis while being one of the best hitters in the league for the second half. Oh, the other minor thing, he stayed healthy the entire year.
Tulo on the other hand, appeared in only 91 games and managed 375 at bats. Now there’s no denying the numbers, a .340 average with 21 home runs and 52 RBI in nothing to brush off and certainly displays that superstar potential when he’s on the field. Yet, that’s just it, he missed nearly half the season and for a team thinking of trading for him, how can you trust that if he only plays half a season its going to be the half that matters and not just help you get out of the gate quick only to not be there as you fall?
The rumor of the New York Mets trading for Troy Tulowitzki is one that won’t go away because it’s too logical. The Rockies want young pitching and the Mets are in desperate need of a legit shortstop. However, the Rockies and others feel that the Mets desperation should somehow turn into an overpaying to get what they need.
On MLB Network, insider Jon Heyman suggested that a package of Noah Syndergaard, Dillon Gee, pitching prospect Rafael Montero, catching prospect Kevin Plawecki and Wilmer Flores for Tulowitzki and $30 million to cover the remaining $119 million left on his deal. Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com alked with two MLB insiders, a legendary reporter, two veteran scouts and a former team executive. Together, that group came away saying they felt the Rockies were “justified” asking for a package of Syndergaard, Gee, pitching prospect Steven Matz and centerfielder Juan Lagares.
So what is it that’s missing? We just saw that Tulo is coming off a year in which he missed nearly half of it yet can command that type of package? Yet Matt Kemp, who played a full year and showed that he could stay healthy, was traded to the San Diego Padres for a major league catcher, two minor league pitchers that didn’t rank anywhere near the top of San Diego’s prospect rankings on top of the Dodgers paying $32 million of the remaining $107 million on Kemp’s deal.
Sandy Alderson has been good at slow playing things since becoming general manager of the Mets. He slow played Ike Davis last offseason and ended up getting what maybe his future second baseman in the process. He did the same with Marlon Byrd a few months earlier. It’s not that I don’t trust Alderson, it’s that I fear that the appeal of getting a superstar at the glaring hole on their team is something he may not be able to let go of. I also wonder this though, let’s go with the assumption that a deal gets done and with the money worked out the Mets end up paying Tulo $15 million a year, that’s going to be $90 million over the next six years. If they have that money to spend, do they need to make a deal?
Take a look at this, two player breakdowns since 2012:
Player A: 264 games/52 home runs/161 RBI/298 hits/.313 avg
Player B: 442 games/69 home runs/244 RBI/469 hits/.276 avg
You’re probably not surprised to know that player A is Troy Tulowitzki. Coors field effect or not, the numbers are impressive, especially when they’re put up against player B who has played in almost 200 more games. Yet that’s the problem, in a possible 486 games, Tulo has missed over 200 games and played in just 54% of his teams games over the last three seasons. “If he’s healthy he’s one of the best in the league,” is certainly laid out here but it also shows that healthy is something that isn’t a common occurrence.
Player B is Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. Desmond is one of the better shortstops in the league, but isn’t talked about as much as say Tulowitzki or even Starlin Castro. Yet, he’s a much of a run producer as any shortstop in the game, hits for a decent average and played in 91% of his teams games. You may be thinking well Tulo is a far superior fielder which he is and Tulo also has WAR of at least 5.3 in five of the past six seasons. Desmond is coming off a career year in which his WAR was only 3.8 in comparison. However, Desmond is a free agent after this season and looks unlikely to resign with Washington. So if you have $15 million to spend on a shortstop, would you choose the guy that is only going to cost you money and stays on the field or do you get the guy with all the talent in the world while raiding your farm system and crossing your fingers that he’ll be on the field when you need him most?
Now I’m not advocating that Alderson and the Mets choose Desmond over Tulo though if they played out this season with Wilmer Flores at shortstop and then in the offseason signed Desmond I wouldn’t be bothered in the least. For the Mets to trade for Tulo and have it be a “win” they need to look no further than the blueprint the Padres laid out for them when they traded for Matt Kemp. The Rockies can have 3-4 players but top prospects are off the table if a deal is going to get done.
A deal in which the Mets gave up something like Dillion Gee, Rafael Montero, pitching prospect Cory Mazzoni, and if they don’t like Flores or Ruben Tejada as a shortstop (and who would blame them) then I’ll let them have their pick between prospects Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. If they’re really stuck on getting an outfielder in the deal the idea of including prospect Cesar Puello in the deal I don’t think would hurt Alderson or Mets fans feelings.
So why can’t a deal of Gee, Montero, Mazzoni, Cecchini and Puello get a deal done for Tulowitzki and $40 million? It’s on par with the Kemp deal, a major league talent, Montero is a higher ranked prospect than either pitching the Dodgers got back plus the Rockies will get another pitching prospect plus two other position prospects. The money is slightly higher than the money in the Kemp deal only due to the fact that Tulo is owed more.
A deal looking something like that makes it easier to assume the risk that comes with paying Tulo and the chance of him not staying on the field. Any deal that involves top prospects not only shouldn’t be non starter but there’s no basis for it. The Mets need a shortstop and the Rockies need youth and pitching for a chance to hit the reset button. The Mets can give them that chance even with the deal I’ve proposed. A need and demand can create desperation but it takes restraint to not buy into that desperation and overpay to fill the need. Sandy Alderson has been good at not doing that and now is his biggest test, but when you have money it gives you options, so the question is just how much does he have?