It’s been more than a year since we’ve seen Troy Tulowitzki in a big league game, and we still don’t know when, or if, he’ll return this season.
With the Blue Jays acquiring so many infielders over the last year, it’s almost easy to forget about their most accomplished one.
Troy Tulowitzki is a 5x All-Star, a 2x winner of the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and has received MVP votes in five different seasons, finishing 5th in 2009 and 2010. Of course, all of those accolades came while he was in National League playing for the Colorado Rockies. The story has been much different since he’s arrived in Toronto.
The 33 year old was the spark the Blue Jays needed in 2015, joining David Price and several other deadline acquisitions to give the team the boost they needed to go on an incredible playoff run in his first half-season with the team. They returned to the playoffs again in 2016, with Tulo playing 131 games, his most since 2011 with the Rockies when he finished 8th in NL MVP voting. Since then though, the former first round pick in 2005 hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
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He managed just 66 games in 2017, and Saturday marked the one year anniversary since he last suited up for John Gibbons‘ lineup. If you don’t recall, it was a nasty ankle injury sustained while trying to beat out an infield hit that sidelined him, and the hope was that he might be able to return before the 2017 was over. The ankle never responded the way that Tulowitzki or the training staff hoped though, and he remained on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
This spring, team officials sounded somewhat optimistic that Tulo would be in camp and ready to contribute again in 2018. The front office went out and got some infield reinforcements with the likes of Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte, but the hope was that Tulowitzki would be able to handle close to full-time duties. Unfortunately the ankle didn’t respond the way they had hoped, and the bone spurs that the shortstop had been dealing with for several years were a bigger issue than ever, forcing a surgery on both of his heels during training camp, much to the chagrin of Blue Jays fans everywhere.
While we’ve received the occasional update on his progress, there still aren’t any hard timelines for the veteran, and I’m not sure we should expect any this year either. Back on July 20th, Gregor Chisholm on MLB.com gave us the latest update, indicating that Tulowitzki was doing a “running progression”, as well as fielding and hitting drills. However, he also reiterated that there is no timetable for his return, and that the progress has been “extremely slow”.
Chisholm’s article also mentions that John Gibbons says that making it back this year would be good for Tulowitzki, and I couldn’t agree more. At this stage it almost feels like his career is over, and if he wants to change that perception then he should do whatever he can to get healthy and back on the lineup card. Forcing the issue isn’t an option for the oft-injured veteran, but a casual approach to rehab shouldn’t be either.
There might not be a lot of playing time waiting for him with the infield glut on the roster, and specifically the emergence of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but it would be an important step in continuing a great career. According to spotrac.com, he’s under contract for 20 million in 2019, 14 million in 2020, and an club option for 15 million in 2021 (with a six million dollar buy out, which will almost certainly be exercised). In total the Blue Jays are on the hook for at least 38 million over the next two years, and it sure would be nice to get something in return for all that dough.
It would also be nice to see Tulowitzki finish his career on his own terms rather than go out with a whimper like this. He was arguably the best shortstop in baseball over a decent period of time, and if his body would cooperate there’s no doubt he could be at least big league average, if not better. Here’s hoping Blue Jays fans get to enjoy that again at some point. It would be a shame for a great career to end like this.