Note: CU Independent staff sports writer Justin Guerriero will report to Rockies Spring Training camp in Scottsdale, AZ on March 23.
Now that Todd Helton is a few seasons into retirement, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is now undoubtedly the pride and joy of Rockies fans. Understandable, given his offensive prowess and his superb defense. That being said, the time has come to get rid of him.
Please, listen to my reasoning before you run me out of town. I’m not questioning how good he is, make no mistake. Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best in the game. What concerns me, and has concerned me for some time now, is how prone to injuries he has been in his career.
Tulowitzki has averaged 117 (out of 162) games played per season since his rookie year in 2007. He has been plagued by injuries in his Major League career. Most recent is a hip issue that required surgery, which caused him to miss 71 games last season. If the Disabled List were an airline, Tulowitzki would have more frequent flier miles than he would know what to do with.
Tulowitzki’s contract runs through the 2020 season and he is making $16 million a year. If you expect Tulowitzki to be performing at healthy levels by the time he is 36 in 2020, I’ve got bad news for you. It’s not happening. He is the Derrick Rose of the MLB. I wouldn’t be surprised if he requires a cane to walk by that time.
I’ve got nothing against Tulo; I think he’s a good guy and leader. I also believe that no one is more frustrated by his constant injuries than himself. He wants to help the Rockies succeed but unfortunately, it’s just not in the cards.
The bottom line is that paying Tulowitzki $16 million a year to play 117 games or less every season is using up a lot of money that could be used elsewhere. The Rockies need to address their pitching situation, considering that in 2014, the bullpen and starters combined for the worst ERA in the MLB. Granted, the team did acquire some help this offseason in the form of relievers John Axford, Jairo Diaz and David Hale. Axford used to be one of the most feared closers in baseball—he led the majors in 2011— and Hale was pretty good in the Braves’ bullpen over the last few seasons. But Diaz has only appeared in five Major League games. Are these three really the solution for the second worst bullpen in baseball?
I really don’t think so. What I do think is that there are teams out there that would love to get their hands on Tulowitzki and would be willing to pay some of the money remaining on his contract despite his history of injuries. CBS reported that the Yankees and Dodgers are possible suitors. Both have an abundance of money to toss around, that much is certain. But no trade was in the making and talks were not going anywhere. Despite that, I’ve been considering some other teams that might be interested in Tulo.
Send him to the Phillies– they released their long-time shortstop Jimmy Rollins and really don’t have someone reliable to fill his spot. I could see Tulo at shortstop, Chase Utley at second base and Ryan Howard at first base being quite the infield. If they all had good offensive seasons, the Phillies would be my front-runner to win the NL East Division.
The Reds could be another team in the mix. Their incumbent shortstop, Zack Cozart, had the worst offensive season of any Major League shortstop in 2014. In addition, trade rumors have surrounded their second baseman, Brandon Phillips, for some time. If that happens and the Reds lose one of their best bats and surest gloves in Phillips, they’re going to need someone else to anchor their infield and provide additional offense. Having a deadly bat like Tuno in the lineup to compliment first baseman Joey Votto and third baseman Todd Frazier would reap huge benefits for Cincinnati.
Lastly, I think the Houston Astros could be a potential suitor for Tulowitzki. They did sign shortstop Jed Lowrie, who played for the Oakland Athletics last season to a multi-year deal in the offseason. Unfortunately, Lowrie has never been much with a bat and could be moved to a utility role. Plus, if Tulo suffers another injury the Astros would at least have a capable shortstop to turn to. Houston’s top minor league prospect, Carlos Correa, is a shortstop and I could see him being included in a potential trade. The Astros’ Minor League system has plenty more to offer the Rockies.
If Tulo is traded, the Rockies’ objective should not be a quick fix. In other words, they shouldn’t go all in for the 2015 season. I would like to see them tap into the Minor League pipeline and get some guys, preferably pitchers, that they can develop for the next few seasons so that by the time the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons come around, the Rockies’ pitching staff is full of fresh talent and ready to get the team back to the playoffs. The one thing the team excelled at last year was hitting. The Rockies were second in the Majors to only the Detroit Tigers in team batting average, to be exact. If they can improve their pitching staff, good things are sure to happen.
In the event Tulowitzki is traded midseason, the Rockies will likely turn to Daniel Descalso, a utility infielder that was signed in the offseason after leaving the Cardinals. He’s not an explosive addition to the offense, but he can play the position well.
So to Rockies fans: I urge you to let go of all sentimental attachments that you may feel toward Troy Tulowitzki. After all, baseball is a business and right now, keeping Tulo on payroll is not good for business.
Contact Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on twitter: @TheHungry_Hippo