Unthinkable WUTS: Should The Blue Jays Trade Tulo?

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Most of us are still groggy from early-morning celebrations of the Jays’ acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki.  Probably the best SS in baseball, and signed to a long-term contract at a ~$20m AAV which most consider a bargain for a player with an fWAR >5 in four of his last five years.  Not only does he increase the Jays’ offense from excellent to outworldly, but his defence (two gold gloves in his career) turns a hole at SS into a strength. In short, a perfect fit for Toronto in almost every way.

So let’s talk about trading him.

Today’s wildly unfounded trade speculation (WUTS):  Tulo for stud pitching.

What about the Edwin WUTS?

In previous WUTS articles, I speculated about trading Edwin Encarnacion for Zack Wheeler of the Mets and Taijuan Walker of Seattle.  In both cases, I noted how Edwin was an elite hitter and how the Jays had enough other options at 1B/DH to make the loss of EE’s production bearable.  Would this strength not be even greater now, making an Edwin deal all the more attractive?  Why even consider trading Tulo?

Without question, Edwin remains an attractive trade asset.  But he is an asset with limitations.  Over his career, Edwin has been a below-average defender at 1B and many feel that he would be better suited to be a full-time DH at this stage of his career.  That makes it more difficult to fit him into a team like the Mets, who (as an NL team) do not have a DH and who have Lucas Duda performing well at 1B.  And Edwin’s free agent status at the end of 2016 likely also decreases his value.

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Tulowitzki is an above-average-to-elite defensive shortstop with elite offensive production, and is under team control through 2021.  Tulo’s exceptional defensive skills make it likely that he will be able to remain at that position through the length of the contract, and his combination of power (>20 HRs in four of his last five years) and OBP (his .408 OBP over the last two years is second in baseball to

Joey Votto

) makes him a valuable weapon anywhere in the lineup.  There are many more teams with a need for a Tulo – and therefore many more potential trade partners.

The trade to Toronto does trigger a full non-trade clause for Tulo, so the possibility exists of his vetoing a trade.  But it is a bit early for him to have fallen in love with Toronto just yet, and if you assume that the trade partner would be a team in serious playoff contention, it is difficult to see why he would refuse.

What would a trade look like?

The Jays are rumoured to have offered Cleveland a package of Jeff Hoffman, Dalton Pompey and Daniel Norris for Carlos Carrasco, without success.  The Indians are rebuilding around a group of good young pitchers, including Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. But their production from the SS position is 27th best in baseball.  Would a trade around Carrasco for Tulo fit their budget and their long-term plan?  How about the Nationals – leading the NL East despite a negative fWAR production from the SS position?  Or how about a team like the Mets, who could give the Jays a Wilmer Flores back to fill the SS hole as well as one of their scary-good young starters?

Jul 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) delivers in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Why would the Jays do it?

As good as Tulo is, the Jays’ greater need might be for a top-of-the-rotation starter.  It is all about the price – if a Tulo could land a Carrasco, or a Matt Harvey, who could help them in 2015 and for years beyond, the loss of a Tulo might be worth it.  And with one of the best free agent classes in recent memory for starting pitching coming up this offseason, an extra $20 million in the Blue Jays piggybank might turn out to be very valuable.

The other reason to at least consider a Tulo trade is the effect of last night on the Jays’ minor league system.  With Castro, Hoffman and Tinoco now gone, the Jays’ prospect pipeline has taken a hit, making it more difficult to accept a prospects-for-rental deal for a player like a Jeff Samardzija.  Trading Tulo could not only preserve prospects like Norris and Alford, but potentially even help to restock the system.

The bottom line? The Jays paid a high price to get Tulowitzki, but they received a very valuable player in return. It was reported that many teams were surprised to hear that Tulo was even available. If one of those teams were prepared to knock the Jays’ socks off with an offer centred around ace-level young pitching, I would hope that Alex would at least be listening.

Next: Troy Tulowitzki Joins Star Filled Toronto Blue Jays Lineup

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