Blue Jays: Tulowitzki will be hard pressed to retire at SS

TORONTO, ON - JULY 28: Troy Tulowitzki
TORONTO, ON - JULY 28: Troy Tulowitzki /

The Blue Jays had Troy Tulowitzki back in the dugout, walking boot and all on Wednesday. While being interviewed prior to the game, Tulo shared a few thoughts about his future, including whether or not he’d be willing to move away from the shortstop position.

The Blue Jays have had a lot of things go wrong this year, with the leading cause of their disappointing campaign being injury. Every team goes through it of course, but the Blue Jays have lost significant amounts of time from the likes of Aaron Sanchez, Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Devon Travis, and Troy Tulowitzki, among many others.

The Jays welcomed Tulowitzki back to the dugout on Thursday night, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the form of a triumphant return. The 32 year old veteran is still recovering from ligament damage in his right ankle, and won’t be back on the diamond again until spring training of next season.

He was interviewed prior the game and was asked about his future, including whether or not he could see himself moving away from playing shortstop. He had a pretty definitive answer to that inquiry for a group of reporters on hand.

"“I’ll start this thing as a shortstop and I’ll finish it as a shortstop.”"

He said plenty more of course, but that was arguably the most significant statement he made in the interview. You can’t fault him for his answer either, as he’s been an All-Star calibre player for a long time and it requires a certain amount of confidence to play at the level he’s achieved. He’s always been known for his offensive contributions, but he’s been as good or better with the glove throughout his career. The two-time Gold Glove winner was at his best early in his career in Colorado, but brought a tremendous stability to the infield in Toronto when he arrived in 2015.

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And realistically, there is no reason for the Blue Jays to consider moving him in 2018, for plenty of reasons. Despite the fact that he had his worst defensive ratings since 2012, I think we can safely assume that he was never fully healthy in 2017. He appeared to be labouring from lingering hamstring issues, even before the subsequent ankle injury, and at times it was borderline painful to watch him out there. He was letting balls get by him that used to be routine (for him), and looking like Kendrys Morales on the base paths.

There is legitimate concern that he can’t stay healthy, as we’ve watched throughout his career, and I think that’s something Tulo will need to be mindful of throughout the remainder of his playing days. I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere in 2018 or even 2019, but a lot of things could change in Toronto before his contract is up.

He has three years remaining on his deal, and right now the Blue Jays have several middle infielders that have a realistic shot at seeing the big leagues before then. The leading candidate, Bo Bichette, may not stick at shortstop, but if he does he could be knocking on the big league door sooner than later. The same goes for Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who could even challenge for a roster spot next year, and hopefully provide some needed depth behind Tulowitzki and Travis up the middle. Logan Warmoth is a ways away, but the first round pick from this year’s draft has looked fantastic in Vancouver so far as well.

Maybe none of Gurriel/Bichette/Warmoth are ready to take on the gig by 2019, but maybe they are in 2020 when Tulowitzki is in the final year of his contract. By then he’ll be entering his age 35 season, and based on the struggles he’s had staying healthy as a younger man, it’s hard to picture him improving in the area as he ages. And with a talented crop coming up behind him, he may not get a choice by the end of his contract.

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For what it’s worth, Tulowitzki’s other statements about the question showed that he understands where it’s coming from, and he sees it “as a challenge” when he’s asked about moving away from the position of his childhood dreams. It sounds as though he’s motivated to prove the doubters wrong, and that’s never a bad thing. Still, if he wants to collect the full 54 million remaining on his current deal, and perhaps play beyond this contract, he may have to eventually accept a position change. Just don’t expect it to be any time soon.