The Toronto Blue Jays & Troy Tulowitzki share a problem, but it impacts each in opposite ways
The Toronto Blue Jays have not had much return on their investment for Troy Tulowitzki. We know this. Injuries have cut his time significantly. While many will rage about how much the player is making compared to how much he is playing, they can do so without me. Stuff happens. It’s baseball and injuries happen.
But, the situation in which the soon to be 34 year old finds himself is one that is interesting, indeed. The line of thinking came from the most recent episode of the Jays From the Couch Radio podcast where Roy and I took a discussion on Kendrys Morales down a rabbit hole of roster depth and came to Tulo. Essentially, Morales limits the roster flexibility the team has, which really has an impact on the middle infield options they have now and look to have in the near future.
Currently, the Blue Jays are running Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Richard Urena and have even gone with Yangervis Solarte, though that won’t be a thing, don’t worry. But, looking further down, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Kevin Smith, Logan Warmoth, Kevin Vicuna all serve to cloudy the middle infield picture moving forward. They will be pushing their way closer to the big leagues. That doesn’t mean those in AA or below will be taking playing time from Tulo, but the talent is moving upward, forcing a bit of a clog.
If you’re the Toronto Blue Jays, you have to think about what you’re going to do with all of these infielders. Sure, some of them could be used as trade bait, but if 2019 is going to be a ‘bridge year’, there really doesn’t seem to be a point to letting real talent go. Let it stay and develop. It only helps the club as their assets will be that much more valuable. Having high end talent closer and closer to the big leagues is a great problem to have for the club.
For Tulowitzki, it isn’t such a rosy picture. The former All Star will be 34, fresh off missing an entire season of game action and have younger talent breathing down his neck. Recently, Ben Nicholson-Smith brought an interesting piece Tulo stated how he feels about the depth at shortstop. He made some very interesting comments about welcoming competition for the everyday job. He thinks that it is good for the team (again, it is), but he also is publicly stating the old ‘may the best man win’ line. But, what is odd is that he feels that he is that man.
He says that, aside from his intangible experience, etc, his heels are not going to be bothering him, so he expects he may actually be better at age 34. Yes, he said better. It’s safe to say that we can pretty much write off his 2017 numbers, but his 2016 sample of 1128.2 innings yielded positive defensive metrics. He put up a UZR/150 of 5.7 and was worth 10 DRS. If he could return to that form, it would be a tough sell to move him from the position. That is especially true when you consider his hefty price tag. You have to let the guy play everyday to get your money’s worth, don’t you?
But, what Tulo hasn’t spoken about is his ability to perform at the plate. He’s not been a game in a very long time. Come Spring Training, that time frame will have expanded even further. Can he adjust to game speed pitching and be an effective bat? 2016 saw him put up an OPS of .761, a wRC+ value of 103 and a wOBA of .327. Those are numbers better than Diaz, although not by a whole lot. Now, if you believe in what you’ve seen at the plate from Gurriel, you might think that Tulo’s going to have to do better than that.
The pressure is on. Can he bounce back? While we can’t predict the future, we can safely say that the odds may be against him. Of course, he would state publicly that he likes that, but it cannot be a good feeling knowing that your job may very well be taken over in short order. I mean, sure, he’ll have his approximately $125M that he’s made to date (and another $34M) to help him get over it. And, I’m sure that money will help with the decision he will force himself into making when the time comes to move to another position or retire as he’s said in the past. But, there are some things that money can’t compete with. Pride is one of them. Would he actually hang it up, though? Perhaps, when the time comes, his stance might change. He’s not facing the dilemma at the moment, but things are heading that way.
Tulo is in an unenviable position: the wrong side of the Blue Jays’ shortstop problem. The club doesn’t really need to worry about the position. He does.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.