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Alex Anthopoulos surprised Blue Jays released Troy Tulowitzki

Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says he was surprised by the team’s decision to release shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Currently the Atlanta Braves GM, Anthopoulos was responsible for the deal that brought Tulowitzki to Toronto from the Colorado Rockies in 2015.

“Definitely a surprise,” Anthopoulos told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, where the Winter Meetings are taking place. “Obviously I haven’t been there for the past three years so it’s hard to know what’s been going on there.”

Tulowitzki helped the Blue Jays reach the American League Championship Series in 2015 and 2016 before going down with an ankle injury in July 2017, when Anthopoulos was already working as the vice-president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tulowitzki then missed the entire 2018 season after having surgery for bone spurs in both his heels.

The deal to acquire the shortstop became one of Anthopoulos’ most polarizing moves with the Blue Jays, as Tulowitzki and the $98 million that was owed to him came to Toronto from Colorado – along with relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins – for infielder Jose Reyes, who was owed $48 million in 2016 and 2017, and three prospects.

“I can only speak from my two months with him,” Anthopoulos said of Tulowitzki. “No errors, stabilizing our defence. Getting out of the Jose Reyes deal at the time was [also] pretty important for us.

“But I think he’ll land on his feet, just knowing him, he’s a complete pro, I won’t be surprised to see him bounce back, and hopefully things will work out for him.”

According to Tulowitzki’s agent Paul Cohen and current Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins, the shortstop is recovering well and should be in playing form – although not in full-season form – in the near future. Despite that, Anthopoulos said it is unlikely he will look for a Josh Donaldson-like reunion with Tulowitzki given the Braves’ current infield depth.

Atlanta is still looking to bolster its offence in the off-season, even after signing Donaldson to a one-year $23-million deal.

“What Josh did in September when he came back with the Indians… It looked like the guy that we had seen that was an MVP calibre,” Anthopoulos said. “He was the ideal fit for us, and he was the No. 1 guy in free agency for us.”

Donaldson played just 36 games with the Blue Jays in the 2018 season due to a calf injury, and batted .280/.400/.520 in 16 regular-season games with the Cleveland Indians after being traded in August, helping Cleveland reach the ALDS.

The third baseman is looking for a bounce-back year, and Anthopoulos believes that he has the offensive power and the defence to be an impactful addition, especially on a team-friendly one-year deal. If Donaldson can stay healthy, he should become a hard-hitting, middle-of-the-order batter for the Braves, and add a veteran presence in a young and surprising Atlanta team that finished first in the NL East in 2018.

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