Blue Jays: Top-five greatest shortstops in franchise history

Toronto Blue Jays
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No. 4 Troy Tulowitzki

On July 28, 2015, the Blue Jays were already the league’s highest-scoring team but were just 50-50 and 6.5 games out of the AL East lead. Then they went out and traded for an All-Star.

The mega-deal that brought Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto along with LaTroy Hawkins for a package including José Reyes, Miguel Castro, and Jeff Hoffman shocked the baseball world simply because deals of this magnitude are rarely pulled off in the middle of the season. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos had originally tried to get Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies in the previous offseason but hadn’t managed to close the deal. A few months later, the timing proved to be just right.

“This is a long-term acquisition. We think we got better now, and we would have taken Troy Tulowitzki in the offseason, but we just couldn’t get the deal done. This wasn’t a July move, this happened to be the time we could get him,” Anthopoulos said at the time. “I just think we got better, for the short and for the long term.”

Anthopoulos transformed the team that trade deadline. A few days later, he got David Price from the Tigers. The Blue Jays went 43-18 the rest of the way and won the division by six games, snapping the club’s 22-year postseason drought.

Tulowitzki, away from the friendly confines and thin air of Coors Field, never quite matched the prodigious production he had with the Rockies once he switched teams. He was batting .300 with 12 homers in 2015 with the Rockies, but his average dipped to .239 with the Blue Jays; he hit just five home runs in 41 games with the Blue Jays, while his OPS declined by more than 120 points. He went 7-23 in the Blue Jays’ six-game ALCS loss to the Royals, including a three-run homer that burst open a decisive Game 3 win.

Tulowitzki was better in 2016, his 24 home runs at the time the second-most by a Blue Jays shortstop. He also hit .462 in the ALDS win over the Rangers as the Blue Jays advanced to the ALCS for the second consecutive year.

Then, almost as quickly and shockingly as his tenure in Toronto began, it came to an end. On July 28, 2017, two years to the day since the trade, Tulowitzki was running to first base when he collided with Angels’ first baseman C.J. Cron and collapsed to the ground with an ankle sprain. He never played another game with the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki was released in December 2018 with two years and $38 million left on his contract.

Despite playing just 238 games with the Blue Jays, Tulowitzki ranks fourth all-time among shortstops with 36 homers. Only Bo Bichette, Tony Fernández and Reyes had a higher OPS. The trade changed the trajectory of the Blue Jays franchise after years of looking up at the Yankees and Red Sox. That was Tulowitzki’s ultimate legacy for the Blue Jays.