Blue Jays fans: Don’t lament Troy Tulowitzki signing in New York

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 07: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on June 7, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 07: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on June 7, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Forget the idea that the Blue Jays are paying Troy Tulowitzki over 19 million to play for the Yankees next season. They paid him to go away and to open his roster spot.

With the news that Troy Tulowitzki has signed with the New York Yankees, many fans are understandably annoyed at the idea that the Blue Jays will still be covering his salary while he plays for a division rival. In it’s simplicity, that’s fair enough.

However, looking at the situation through that lens is pretty short-sighted, and I’m confident that the more you think about how things played out the less angry you’ll feel. I’ll concede that there is potential for Tulowitzki to have a resurgence now that his heels are supposedly all healed, and it does sting that the Yankees are only paying him the league minimum, but let’s look at the big picture.

1- The Blue Jays released him, and therefore didn’t want him

Look at it any way you like, but the Blue Jays felt they were better off to pay Tulowitzki out for the remaining two years of his contract rather than keep him around and see if they could get any value from him. If he was healthy it was possible he could have contributed on the field, and he definitely could have been a good mentor for younger players who will be making their debuts in the next two seasons.

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It was a difficult situation though, because the veteran wanted to remain as the everyday shortstop, and the Blue Jays have a couple of guys who will be battling it out for that role, both now and down the line. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. figures to be the starter at short to begin the season, and there’s a very good chance that we’ll see Bo Bichette at some in 2019, or by 2020 at the latest. One of those two is going to have to move off of the position to co-exist as it is, and having Tulowitzki around to take up valuable playing time, and even roster space, just wasn’t an option anymore.

As the Blue Jays rebuild, even having to save him a spot on the 40 man roster during the offseason was a difficult concept. With no trade value of any kind, they were left with the decision to try to find room for him at the expense of their younger players (and possible rebuild pieces), or to cut him loose. They were going to have to pay him either way, so you can’t fault the front office for making the decision they did.

2- Tulowitzki really didn’t want to stick around (unconfirmed)

Let’s be honest, the 5x All-Star probably didn’t want to stick around for a rebuild, especially with just two years left on his contract, and no guarantee of regular playing time. Even in an ideal situation of health for the former Colorado Rockie, the Blue Jays were a less than ideal spot for him for a number of reasons.

At 34, I’m sure he still wants to chase a championship, and if he can stay healthy and stick on the Yankees roster then he should have a chance to do just that. It’s well known that he was a fan of Derek Jeter and the Yankees, and I’m sure he’s thrilled at the potential opportunity that he’s been given. He’s not guaranteed much, especially because it sounds like the Yankees are still interested in pursuing Manny Machado, and Didi Gregorius should be back sometime around the All-Star break. If things break the right way for him though, it could be an ideal set-up for Tulo.

If he can stay healthy enough to remain on the 25 man roster, I’m sure he could find some value as a part-time player even when Gregorius eventually returns. I’m sure the idea of chasing a ring with the Yankees is more enticing for Tulo than a rebuild in Toronto, especially because he may even get a chance to play shortstop, at least in the first half.

3- Respectfully, how good could he really be anymore?

I know it’s possible that Tulowitzki could make me eat my words this spring, but I’m not banking on it. That’s mostly because he’s now 34 years old and he hasn’t played in a big league game since late-July of 2017. That’s a long time ago, and his body looked absolutely broken even before he badly sprained his ankle running out a ground ball, the last time that we saw him.

Before he got hurt in 2017, he really wasn’t that good anymore.’ He slashed a disappointing .249/.300/.378 in 66 games, adding just seven home runs and 26 RBI. Despite managing some adequate defence, he still earned by 0.1 bWAR before getting injured, and he haven’t seen him since.

Looking back at his last “full” year would be the 131 games he played in 2016. He was solid that year, slashing .254/.318/.443 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI, and his positive contributions with the glove brought him to a very respectable 3.4 bWAR. That type of Tulowitzki would be a huge get for the Yankees on a minimum contract, but what are the chances his body is actually up to the challenge? Since then he has had surgery on both heels and barely played at all, a recipe that doesn’t exactly scream success. That was a long time ago in Tulo-years.

It’s no fun at all that he ended up signing with the Yankees, but I’d caution Blue Jays fans against getting too upset about it at this stage. The Yankees may not even keep Tulo around for Opening Day depending on what happens with Machado or others, and the former Blue Jay still has to prove he can get healthy enough to play.

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It is a rare situation, because I can honestly say I’m rooting for a comeback for the California native, even in a Yankee uniform. The Blue Jays aren’t realistically planning on contending anyway, so why not hope for a comeback for Tulo, even in New York.