Blue Jays could face an ugly situation with Troy Tulowitzki next season
After stating that he has no interest in moving to another position, the Blue Jays could be facing a potentially ugly situation with Troy Tulowitzki in 2019.
We finally got some updates with regards to Troy Tulowitzki on the weekend, and as expected it looks like we won’t be seeing him on the field at all this year. Now that we’re nearly at the end of August I don’t think any fans were surprised to hear the news, as he hasn’t played in a big league game more than a year.
He also had a chance to speak to reporters while he was in town, and offered up several interesting things to say. Most notably he indicated that he is not interested in moving positions, and would rather “pack his bags and go home”, than be moved off of his career-long spot on the diamond.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith’s recent article offers several comments to dissect, but to me this is the most significant for several reasons. As Nicholson-Smith points out, Tulowitzki is aware of the success and even impressed with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Aledmys Diaz, but that doesn’t mean he’s about to give up his job without a fight.
"“If someone’s better than me, I’ll pack my bags and go home. I do think I bring a lot more out there than what you guys see and that’s part of baseball. There’s things behind the scenes that go on. There’s things I try to help teammates with. I think I do bring a veteran leadership, so those things shouldn’t go unnoticed.”"
While I admire his confidence in himself, and his frank answer to the line of questioning, I think this situation has the potential to get a little bit ugly. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in Tulowitzki’s ability to be a professional, but the circumstances could make his role on this team pretty cloudy in the future. Considering that he’s under contract for at least two more seasons, it’s a tense situation that’s going to be difficult to avoid.
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Getting back to Gurriel Jr. and even Diaz, both have had very solid seasons in 2018, and Gurriel in particular looks like he could be the long term solution at shortstop for the Blue Jays. He’s slashed .307/.333/.477 in 153 at bats around a stint on the disabled list, and now owns the rookie record for consecutive multi-hit games. Combine that with his very strong arm at shortstop, and he’s a very viable option for the future, and the present. Diaz hasn’t been quite as good, but his 16 home runs, 41 RBI, and 18 doubles in 333 at bats have made him a serviceable option for sure. Bo Bichette isn’t far behind in his minor league development either, and could be an option as soon as next year as well.
The “easy” solution would be to trade a healthy Tulowitzki to a team in need of a shortstop. However, the problem is a) how much he’s owed on his contract, b) the guy just can’t stay healthy, and is difficult to count on. The Blue Jays could send a bunch of money to another team to possibly make it work, but even then it’s a tough sell. With a salary of 20 million due in 2019, 14 million in 2020, and a four million dollar buyout for 2021 on a 15 million dollar club option, he’s a difficult guy to trade.
After being out for what will roughly a season and a half and still not being able to get himself healthy enough to play, it’s possible he would consider early retirement, but the tone of his comments didn’t really suggest that. He sounds like he’s a man who still believes in his abilities, and is confident about what he brings to the table if he’s on the active roster. Of course, being healthy has been a consistent issue for him throughout his career, so that’s a big “if”. It would also be a lot of money to leave on the table as well, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’d forego at least 38 million over the next two seasons.
What’s brewing is a situation where Tulowitzki could realistically be asked to change to another position, or maybe spend time DH-ing more often. If he’s not willing to do those things, I’m not sure where that will leave his status with the Blue Jays. It’s unlikely they would just designate him for assignment with that much money owing either, so there’s a decent chance this comes to a head at some point. Again, I don’t expect anything blatantly unprofessional here, but there could be some unrealistic demands made of the front office, and to whomever is going to manage this team in 2019 if John Gibbons doesn’t return.
At this stage I’m sure some of you are thinking that he’ll never get healthy anyway, and that is an unfortunate possibility. Tulowitzki’s body has taken a lot of punishment throughout his career, and now that he’s 33 he’s clearly not bouncing back as well as he did in his 20’s. That’s just the way life goes unfortunately, but hopefully the extended absence will give the 5x All-Star at least one more opportunity to come back fully healthy and show us all what he can still do on both sides of the ball.
He’ll be 34 by the time Opening Day rolls around next year, and if he’s healthy the Blue Jays are going to have to figure out something that works for the veteran, while not sacrificing the development opportunities for guys like Gurriel Jr., and eventually Bichette. If he’s truly unwilling to budge on being the every day shortstop, and he’s actually healthy, then this situation could get a little ugly next spring.