Much has been written about the trades the Toronto Blue Jays have made over the last week. The one that started it all off was, perhaps, the most surprising. They shocked the baseball world when they traded for Troy Tulowitzki. In an effort to add more color to this huge deal, I sat down with Bobby DeMuro, the Editor of RoxPile, FanSided’s Colorado Rockies site. I asked him about Tulo, plans for the prospects we sent and for Jose Reyes. I recommend everyone heading over to their site for great content about the Rockies.
We should also remind you that the next episode of the Jays’ Nest Podcast (Mon 6pmET) will feature a discussion of the David Price trade with Motor City Bengals. Tune in LIVE!
-How much concern is there that Tulo won’t be healthy for the length of his contract?
Well, there’s huge concern. I’ve watched this guy play more than 140 games only one time in the five seasons since 2009. Now, in 2015, he’s on pace to beat that, but injuries have been his bugaboo recently. I’m actually worried about him on turf now, too. I know Toronto fans have been quick to point out to Rockies’ folks that (a) it’s a higher quality turf than the old AstroTurf and FieldTurf of the past, and (b) grass is coming to Toronto’s ballpark, but for a guy like Tulo who’s had lots of nagging leg and hip problems, turf is still turf.
Nobody wants to see him injured — least of all, anyone covering the Rockies; we really, really want to see him succeed in Toronto and I sincerely hope he wins a ring for the Blue Jays — but injuries are a fact when you’re talking about Troy Tulowitzki.
Toronto Blue Jays
His saving grace may be the American League, if only for the DH. In Denver, manager Walt Weiss was sitting him pretty conservatively this season — lots of day games after night games, anytime he played more than a handful (4-6 games) in a row, he’d get a seat. In Toronto, you’d have to think that breather can come in the form of a day at DH, so he can help a ball club with his bat, but still not put more sustained pressure on his body.
-Was there ever much talk about moving him to another position?
You know there was a lot of talk from bloggers and media members, and that talk would’ve ramped up had Tulo stayed in Denver. (Now, as he ages in Toronto, get ready for that talk to ramp up in Canada in about 2018).
And while it’d be interesting to see him at first base or something late in his career, how could you move one of the best defensive shortstops off his position in his prime? Injuries, sure, they are an issue, but I didn’t get any indication from beat writers or the team that he’d automatically be less injured just by moving to first base or third base (oh, by the way, the Rockies have a pretty damn good player at third base).
By 2018 (arbitrary number, but certainly around there), and depending on his health to that point, the talk might ramp up. And, by then, he may be amenable to a move. But for now, his natural position is still shortstop, and he’s still one of the best in the game when he’s on the field, so I never sensed moving him off short was a reality.
-We’d heard that Tulo commented on “finding a reason to play” a little while back. Is that as bad as it sounds? Was it frustration talking? Or, is this going to be a potential clubhouse problem?
No, he won’t be a clubhouse problem, only because that particular example you cite was actually a very significant misquoting by a beat reporter taking a quote out of context, at which point national media jumped on it and created their own context.
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Media members took a quote about his on-base streak and pushed it to the Rockies’ struggles. For Roxpile’s take on that, you can find it HERE.
As for clubhouse problems, no. None. Never. Now, he’s intense. Really intense. He’s not going to make friends. I’ve gotten the sense his only friend in Denver was Nolan Arenado, almost because the two of them were obsessive about winning and competition, but in pro baseball you’re not trying to make friends, so whatever, right?
-We’d heard that the Blue Jays tried to get Tulo last winter. What is that made it happen this time around?
Listen, from what we’ve seen here in Denver, the Blue Jays wanted Tulo since 2005 when they passed him up in the draft (shout out to Ricky Romero, right?) and now they’ve finally gotten their man. I know they tried to get Tulo last winter, this spring, over the All Star break, and they finally wore down Rockies’ GM Jeff Bridich by the end of the deadline.
Hey, good for the Jays. It’s kind of an unconventional trade (at least when you look at what the pundits predicted with the Jays needing pitching, and all). And good for Tulo. As for Bridich? Jury’s still out (but I do like the haul the Rockies got back for Tulo).
-Will the Rockies look to move Jose Reyes any time soon?
You know, I’m a little surprised to see Reyes back in a Rockies uniform after the deadline, but I suppose there’s always (a) post-July 31 waiver trades, and (b) the offseason in which the Rockies can move the shortstop.
He’s a decent player and I actually really like him (in a small way, he’s already been a catalyst for the Rox hitting in the two-hole behind Charlie Blackmon for about four games), but his age and contract certainly don’t fit into the Rockies’ long-term plans.
The Rockies have two exciting shortstop prospects — Cristhian Adames and Trevor Story — coming very, very quickly, and I’d like to see both of them on the big league roster next season. Let the Rockies figure out between the two of them which one is a starter, and which is a utility man.
As for Reyes, while I suppose he could be moved now post-July 31, I think the winter is more likely. Look for the Padres (my god, they still need middle infielders! What are you doing, AJ Preller?!) and the Mets (Reyes’ former home) to play for Reyes in November.
-Was Jeff Hoffman the real prize of this deal? We expected that he could have been a September call up this year with a long shot of being in the rotation in 2016. What do things look like as far as his progress to the big leagues?
Man, Jeff Hoffman. I remember watching him at East Carolina. I think he’d have been the consensus overall #1 selection in 2014 had he not had Tommy John surgery. He was dominant with some nasty stuff in college.
And from what I’ve seen from him as he returns from rehab to debut professionally this season, he’s done about what you’d expect from a 9th overall pick from a good college program (maybe better, considering the surgery). The Rockies have a huge prospect in AAA right now named Jon Gray, and I think the most optimistic among us Rockies’ folks salivate at the thought of Gray and Hoffman holding down the rotation for the next few years.
Of course, this is Colorado, so it’ll likely all blow up. But we’ll always hit the ball!!
-Tell me about the pitching in Colorado. Is it as hard as we all think it is? Does that make it harder to lure free agents?
Yeah, it is, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Yes, the ball flies in Denver. And yes, the gaps in Coors Field are massive, so literally everything falls in front of outfielders. And yes, with the altitude, there are very few pitchers that have successfully figured out how to use their breaking stuff in Denver (though, credit to Jorge De La Rosa for being a very notable exception to that rule).
Some other not-so-obvious issues that make it harder to pitch, too, include recovery. Greg Maddux used to talk about it — Coors Field would mess him up for his next two starts afterwards, as he adjusted from the high altitudes and his body was slow to recover from the relative lack of oxygen.
Sure, these guys are pro athletes and (mostly) in great shape, but Coors throwing off a starter’s regimen can get a guy all out of whack. Now imagine what it does to Rockies’ pitchers who come and go and come and go on home stands and road trips all year. Is it the central factor of the Rockies’ lack of pitching success? Of course not. But all these little things surely add up to a really difficult environment.
Furthermore, as you mention, it’s nearly impossible for the Rockies to lure good free agents. They signed Kyle Kendrick this year. There’s just nothing else to say about that. The Rockies have to overpay potential free agents so much, because nobody wants to pitch in Denver.
Oh, and let’s be real — the Rockies have also really struggled at developing home grown pitchers. But the farm system right now is deeper than it’s maybe ever been, and with the addition of Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco, and Miguel Castro, the Rockies have a clear new “type” of pitcher they seek: power arms. I actually love it; they should’ve been doing this before.
– With Tulo gone, who will step up as the new “Face of the Franchise”?
Definitely Nolan Arenado. Now whether he signs long-term with the Rockies when he comes up for arbitration a few years from now notwithstanding, Arenado is a special player and a really really exciting young guy to watch. If you haven’t seen him yet, do watch some Rockies games this year — he’ll quickly become one of your very favorite non-Blue Jays, only because of how hard he plays the game, how smooth he is on defense, and how consistent he is at the plate.
Don’t forget to tune in LIVE as we discuss the trade for David Price with Motor City Bengals Monday at 6pmET! IT’ll be a great episode of the Jays’ Nest Podcast!