In a stunning move, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that they have released shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki had two years and $38 million remaining on his contract. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins reportedly met with Tulowitzki’s agent at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to discuss the former All-Star shortstop’s future with the club. While Atkins didn’t give a ringing endorsement of Tulowitzki’s future, it still came as a surprise to many in the industry.
Also, when Atkins was asked by Blue Jays reporters if he expected Tulowitzki to be on the Opening Day roster in 2019, he said he envisioned that being the case. Since the Blue Jays are not a club with unlimited resources, it’s interesting to think that the Blue Jays did not even engage in trade discussions to move him at a lower salary for some financial relief. Perhaps other clubs knew that the Blue Jays did not have much leverage after Tulowitzki missed the entire 2018 season and was limited to 66 games in 2017. Whatever the case, Toronto is on the hook for the entirety of Tulo’s remaining contract.
Tulowitzki was acquired in 2015 from the Colorado Rockies for a package that included young pitcher Jeff Hoffman, a trade that never really was a rewarding trade for either side. Although Toronto reached the ALCS that year, Tulowitzki did not play a huge role, hitting just .239 .317 .380 in 183 regular-season plate appearances. He played well in the ALCS that year, but the rest of his time in Toronto was marked by ineffectiveness and injury.
The Blue Jays are not necessarily in a rebuild, but they have transitioned to playing younger players and have already traded shortstop Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros to address their logjam in the middle infield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. came on strong last season, hitting .281 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Gurriel is the shortstop of the future, and he now has more certainty in his role without Tulowitzki’s name in the fold.
For Tulowitzki’s immediate future, this is probably the best scenario for him. Tulowitzki will collect the remaining $38 million owed to him, and he now is available at the league minimum. A starting shortstop job might not be in the cards, but at age 34, he can make a difference on both sides of the ball in any role. Tulowitzki’s agent is at the Winter Meetings, and he can immediately engage clubs to take a low-risk move on his client. Free agency hasn’t entirely kicked into gear with many jobs still to be had.
Manny Machado is the big ticket available at shortstop, but after him the level of talent drops off. Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis, and Tim Beckham are other notable options, but they don’t have the offensive upside Tulowitzki has if he is in fact healthy. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that Tulowitzki has been working out at Long Beach State and is in the best health he has been in a long time.
While Tulowitzki’s market is still developing, there are numerous teams who are searching for middle infield help. The New York Yankees will be without their starting shortstop Didi Gregorius for an extended period of time, and GM Brian Cashman has said on many occasions that he is looking for someone to fill in. The Yankees have money to spend, but since pitching is more of a need, they could turn to Tulowitzki, especially if Machado signs elsewhere.
The Colorado Rockies, where he was the face of the franchise, are unlikely to bring back DJ LeMahieu and have internal candidates to replace him such as Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson. However, Tulowitzki could be a veteran option coming off the bench without the pressure of playing every day.
Tulowitzki is definitely not who he once was, but for clubs looking to make low-risk moves, he could be the perfect fit as long as his body holds up.