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How one man’s trash is another’s treasure

It seems crazy that the Blue Jays are cutting Troy Tulowitzki and yet the Yankees are prepared to hand him a starting shortstop gig. Here’s why.

I received a phone call from a good friend of mine yesterday, and for a moment I felt like I was the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays considering how clearly he demanded an answer to his question.

“How could the Blue Jays pay someone 38 million to go away, and a week or two later he’s good enough to be the starting shortstop of the New York Yankees?”. It’s a fair question.

We’ve talked about it at length here at Jays Journal already, but in light of Brian Cashman’s comments yesterday when asked about Troy Tulowitzki, I feel it warrants addressing for Blue Jays fans, one last time.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, we haven’t actually witnessed Tulowitzki in a big league game since July of 2017, and he only played in 66 games that season. He looked banged up throughout that campaign as well, and he finally got surgery on both of his heels a little under a year ago, addressing the nagging bone spurs that have plagued him for so long. Add those two bad heels to a badly sprained ankle during the last game we saw him (July of 2017), and it’s been a frustrating couple of years for Tulo and the Blue Jays.

With two seasons remaining on his contract, the 34 year old’s fit with the Blue Jays was far from ideal going forward. The team is at the beginning stages of a rebuild, and while Tulo could offer a lot of guidance and mentorship to the younger players, he strongly desires an opportunity to remain at shortstop and to prove he can still be a full-time starter in the big leagues. That was going to be nearly impossible for the Blue Jays to provide with the coming talents of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette, Richard Urena, Cavan Biggio, and existing veterans like Devon Travis and Brandon Drury.

They already moved on from Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this season, but the Blue Jays were never going to clear enough room that Tulowitzki was going to be a clear-cut starter. The development of the talented prospects takes a higher priority at this stage of the rebuild, and Tulowitzki’s presence would have made new manager Charlie Montoyo‘s job more difficult, and potentially caused a distraction down the road.

The Blue Jays had also come to a place where they could no longer realistically rely on Tulowitzki to stay healthy, which was a big part of the reason that Diaz and Solarte were brought in a year ago. With the progression of the youngsters, they’re now ready to take over full-time duties and work toward establishing themselves as big leaguers. Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office didn’t want Diaz around blocking starts at shortstop, and they surely didn’t want the same to happen with Tulowitzki if he could somehow stay healthy.

I realize that it seems really strange, but the Yankees are actually a perfect fit and opportunity for Tulowitzki to try and bounce back and prove he can still be relevant. They are without their incumbent starter at shortstop in Didi Gregorios, who will likely be out until around the All-Star break. The team would rather not make any significant changes before Gregorios returns, and a stopgap option like Tulowitzki would represent an inexpensive solution, and would allow them to use their resources elsewhere.

In the dynamic Yankees offence, Tulowitzki doesn’t have to be anything more than a contributor in the bottom third of Aaron Boone‘s lineup, whose contributions at the plate could mostly been seen as a bonus as long as he plays solid defence. With the home run haven that is Yankees stadium, it wouldn’t be shocking if he put up respectable numbers either, if he can stay healthy.

Bringing in someone like Tulowitzki won’t preclude the Yankees from pursuing Manny Machado either, who might be the prize of their offseason eye at the moment. Cashman wouldn’t give much away in his press conference introducing Tulo, but it’s hard to imagine a MLB-minimum contract would stop them from signing someone of Machado’s calibre. Even in that scenario, one of Machado or Tulowitzki could move to third base and the Yankees could use Miguel Andujar at either first, DH, or as excellent trade bait.

Regardless of how good Tulowitzki looked in workouts prior to his signing, the Yankees would be foolish not to safeguard against a potential DL stint for the veteran infielder. He’s got about as poor of a track record as anyone in baseball with his health these days, so to perceive him as anything more than a low-cost gamble would be short-sighted.

For the Yankees, that sort of gamble makes a lot more sense than it does for the Blue Jays, even if the latter is paying his salary regardless. Even if Tulowitzki came back and had a career year (which is highly unlikely), it was still going to be incredibly difficult to trade him, and likely wouldn’t have brought back much of anything in return. This way the Blue Jays can hand the keys to the next generation at shortstop without any distraction, and Tulowitzki can try to revive his career with a contender, and likely at the position he didn’t want to move off of. If things don’t work out for him in New York, the Yankees can move on without their budget hardly noticing.

Next: Who will hit leadoff in 2019?

My buddy phrased it, “how can our trash be the Yankees’ treasure?”, later on in our conversation, and I can absolutely understand why he sees it that way. At this stage though, I see Tulowitzki as more of a new section of shingles on the roof of a finished home (the Yankees), and the Blue Jays are just pouring the foundation of theirs. The Blue Jays don’t have much use for a bundle of shingles at this point, even if they might still have some value on another build.

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