Despite the fact that he’s been written off by plenty of people, the Blue Jays will be a better team if and when Troy Tulowitzki can return to the diamond.
One thing the front office did well this offseason was address the lack of depth at the big league level. Whether it was bringing in plenty of outfield options, adding depth in the infield, or adding a plethora of bullpen arms to consider, the depth need was addressed.
Arguably the most important place that needed depth was in the middle infield, and that’s where Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro admittedly started with their offseason checklist. They brought in upgrades in the form of Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz, who joined other names like Richard Urena, Lourdes Gurriel, and others, behind the incumbent starters Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. The problem with the starters of course was how little they’ve been healthy in recent seasons, not necessarily their performance.
While the front office did a lot of great work to address the middle infield depth, it’s been greatly tested this season. So far the Blue Jays have used Diaz, Gurriel, Urena, Solarte, Gift Ngoepe, Gio Urshela, and even Russell Martin at shortstop. Since Diaz rolled his ankle and Gurriel’s production came back down to earth, it’s been a position without a lot of answers in recent weeks. The injury bug has been biting them early and often in 2018.
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The situation has evolved to the point where the Blue Jays are currently without a natural shortstop on their roster. They’ve got Urshela handling the starting duties for the time being, but with both Gurriel and Urena in Triple-A, Solarte would have to be the back-up at the moment. It’s less than ideal, but with the Blue Jays calling Devon Travis back up earlier this week, the thinking is that this is a temporary solution anyway. Diaz is progressing pretty well and should return in the not so distant future, but it’s still surprising the team would choose this route regardless.
All of this adds up to a need at shortstop, but in the short term, and likely in the long term as well. The good news is that they might get that help sooner than later from the guy sitting at the top of the depth chart, Troy Tulowitzki. The 5x All-Star has begun baseball activities and is working toward his latest comeback from injury. In case you missed it, Tulo had surgery to remove bone spurs on both heels during spring training, as the issue never improved and surgery eventually became a necessity.
It’s hard to say what the Blue Jays can expect or even hope for from the veteran, but chances are he’ll be able to offer an improvement on the diamond if he’s healthy. He’s always been a steady presence with the glove, something the team could use right now as well. He may not be the feared presence at the plate that he used to be either, but something in the neighbourhood of .250-.260 with pop would be an improvement on what John Gibbons has received from the position.
I don’t believe we ever saw a truly healthy Tulowitzki in 2017, and I’m hoping that after this much time to recover from last season’s ankle injury, and the more recent surgeries, that he’ll finally be moving like he used to, or at least the version that the Blue Jays had in 2015-16.
He doesn’t have to be the best version of himself in order to help this team, and hopefully he can get back to doing what he does best sooner than later.