According to Manager, John Gibbons, has declared that the Toronto Blue Jays will stick with Troy Tulowitzki in 2018
The Toronto Blue Jays are older. They want to reverse that. With that in mind, shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, has been the target of commentary from certain sections of the fanbase. And, in the interest of being fair to those sections, it is understandable why they would say that. He will be 33 when the 2018 season begins. He has played just 66 games in 2017. He’s put up 0 fWAR. And, he is set to make another $54M over the next 3 seasons. That’s a hefty price to pay for a player people feel is in decline.
Those who would lament the aging veteran at the shortstop position will immediately point to September call up, Richard Urena, and his streak of success. In 12 games, the switch hitting 21 yr old has 12 hits, 3 doubles and has captured the attention of those disappointed with 2017 and are looking for some sort of bright spot.
But, if you ask Blue Jays manager, John Gibbons, the Urena hype train is a bit premature. Or, more to the point, the moving on from Tulo train is. He went on MLB Netwrok Radio and straight up addressed the issue:
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) September 15, 2017
Gibby is quick to sing the praises of Urena saying “He rises to the occasion…he could be better in the big leagues”. So, the manager would agree with all of the praise Urena is receiving. But, let’s be real. While, the youngster is impressing now, it is a stretch to say that he would do so over a full season. It’s too early to say that, especially when you consider that he’d have to move Tulo out of his spot. Urena is not there yet.
Now, one could read into the comment and say that Gibbons didn’t mention 2019 or 2020 in his statement and maybe that means that Tulo’s position is a little shaky beyond 2018. But, that is a bit too ‘tinfoil hat’ for me. No, the comment was very direct: Urena is good, but he won’t be taking Tulo’s spot next season like people want.
And, in all honesty, that is a good thing. Despite the injuries and “decline”, Tulo is the Blue Jays starting short stop, and that is how it should be. According to Fangraphs, his defense has been worth 1 DRS. The optics of his defense look like he’s declining, but that might be because he put up 10 DRS last year over about twice as many innings. Obviously, injuries have been an issue, which is likely why some folks are upset. Why pay a guy $20M when he only plays half a season?
But, consider the replacements. Ryan Goins is the defensive “go to” when Tulo is out of the lineup. But, he’s put up -5 DRS. If you look at the metrics, Goins played lesser defense than Tulo and he played it in more innings. If we consider putting Urena in Tulo’s spot, would it be any better? In his time at SS with the big league club, he’s put up -3 DRS and shown WAY worse UZR/150 at -27.9. For his career (556 games), he’s made 127 errors, including 19 this season. He may be losing a step, but he’s still a few ahead of the other options.
Offensively, the argument to replace Tulo makes even less sense. Tulo’s 7 HR, 26 RBI and slash line of .249/.300/.378 are definitely down for his career, but the injury issue has to be brought up. Granted, when he’s been in the lineup, he has not looked himself. He’s made more soft contact than he has since 2011. His ground ball rate is the highest of his big league career at 52.5%. So, again, the Tulo detractors have something to hang their hat on.
But, again, look at the replacements. Goins being the recipient of everyday at bats is less than ideal, even though there actually exist people who will scream about him being clutch this season because he can hit with runners in scoring position, etc. Despite this narrative, Goins slashed .226/.278/.336, putting up 60 wRC+. Urena, in his brief stint has resulted in a line of .255/.314/.383. So, he’s been better than Goins (in an extremely small sample), but he’s not Tulo. His career minor league line of .277/.320/.396 may provide hope that he could be a replacement some day. But, he won’t be in 2018.
Whether you are happy with his salary, or not, Troy Tulowitzki is the Blue Jays’ best option at short stop in 2018. All things being equal, Toronto does not have anyone who can logically replace him. And, if you’re looking at things realistically, they don’t even need to. Of course, Tulo haters will say “He’s always hurt”, so they do need a replacement. But, that only means they need to find a reasonable fill-in for if (and when) he’s hurt, which is more of an issue to do with bench depth than the starter.
The only way Tulo gets replaced is if he plays his way out of a job. He would have to show every day that he is a major liability on this team. And, that doesn’t mean that he suffers through slumps. He would have to show that he has become incapable of playing the position. And, no matter what your feelings are on him, or his salary, he has not done that. Tulo very much is capable. And, he has earned the right to be put out there every day until he shows he isn’t.
Troy Tulowitzki will be the Blue Jays’ starting short stop in 2018. And, that is OK.
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