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Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki was a necessary, but imperfect fit in Toronto

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws out the baserunner in the third inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on June 27, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws out the baserunner in the third inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on June 27, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Troy Tulowitzki era with the Blue Jays may not have gone perfectly, but he was a necessary upgrade that pushed that team into the playoffs, and without him it may not have happened.

As Sportsnet continues to show some notable Blue Jays games of the past to help dull the pain of there being no baseball, it’s pretty easy to dig up old debates.

So when Troy Tulowitzki‘s Blue Jays debut was aired yesterday, naturally there were plenty of comments flying around on social media about his tenure in Toronto. That portion of his career certainly came with mixed results, and as a result, there are mixed feelings about the now-retired former All-Star.

When then-GM Alex Anthopoulos decided to push his chips to the centre of the table, the Blue Jays made a big move to acquire Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies. They upgraded their shortstop position with Tulo, and he also came with LaTroy Hawkins, who helped stabilize the bullpen. In return, the Blue Jays sent a package of prospects that was perceived to be pretty significant at the time, including Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco. The swap also sent Jose Reyes to Colorado to help balance the financials of the deal.

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While we all hoped that Tulowitzki would return to the 5x All-Star, MVP calibre player he had been earlier in his career, that was never very likely. That said, his offensive performance as a Blue Jay was definitely underwhelming even with realistic expectations, as he finished his career in Toronto slashing .250/.313/.414 across 238 games, hitting just 36 home runs and 39 doubles. The reality was, we rarely got to see him when he was 100% healthy over the parts of three seasons he was a Blue Jay, and his ability to produce suffered greatly as a result.

To make matters worse, the Blue Jays are STILL paying Tulowitzki this season, as they’re on the hook for his 14 million dollar salary in what will be the last guaranteed year on his contract. They’ll also have to buy out next year’s option for four million, but at least then he’ll be cleared from the books. They decided to designate him for assignment last spring and eat the remainder of his contract, so even though he had a cup of coffee with the Yankees, the Blue Jays still have to pay the tab for the remainder of his deal.

And despite all of that, I’m still glad they brought him in back in 2015, as I don’t think they would have been able to make their exciting playoff run without him. Sure, it didn’t result in a World Series title, or even an appearance in the Fall Classic, but it re-ignited a fan base in Canada that hadn’t been excited about baseball in that way since the 90’s, and it was worth every penny.

Even if Tulowitzki didn’t produce the way we hoped he might at the plate, the stabilization he brought to the infield was invaluable, especially during that playoff run in 2015. Reyes was still a contributor, and was missed a little bit at the top of the lineup, but he was no longer a good defender. In fact, he was a liability with the glove at shortstop, and bringing in the elite defence of Tulowitzki was immediately noticeable. Even if he didn’t consistently produce with the bat, his presence was also enough to change a game plan, at least a lot more than if they had used Ryan Goins at shortstop, for example.

It hasn’t been ideal that the Blue Jays have paid so much to have Tulowitzki either on the Injured List, playing for the Yankees, or to be retired at home, but realistically, it hasn’t hurt them that much. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care all that much about whether ownership has to pay him out, and while they’ve done so over the last few years, they haven’t exactly looked to spend it elsewhere. The remaining commitment to Tulo didn’t stop them from signing free agents this winter either, when they spent over 110 million on commitments to Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and Chase Anderson (who they acquired in a trade with the Brewers).

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Add it all up, and despite the fact that Tulowitzki’s time with the Blue Jays was anything but perfect, I still believe it was still a necessary move for the team to achieve what they did in 2015 and 2016.

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