It wouldn’t be an anniversary if somebody didn’t completely forget it. Admittedly, this is a day late, but I’ll try to make up for forgetting about one of the most significant dates in recent Blue Jays memory. It’s significant for a few reasons.
Thanks to many on Twitter for pointing out that yesterday, July 28th, was the third anniversary of the surprise acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki. The news broke during the early hours while most were sleeping (myself included), so when many awoke, they couldn’t believe what happened.
That trade was the catalyst for the cavalcade of the Blue Jays’ trade deadline deals of 2015. We all know how that ended, but the Tulo trade got the ball rolling on that Cinderella 2015 season.
On the other hand, yesterday also marks the anniversary of another noteworthy event; it’s also been one year since Tulowitzki last played in a Blue Jays uniform. For one calendar year, he’s been hurt or recovering from injuries. It sure sounds like he won’t be back at all this season.
Two significant events, three years removed on two completely opposite ends of the spectrum. In 2015, the Blue Jays added one of the most dynamic shortstops in baseball. This year, Tulowitzki’s biggest contribution to the Jays will be the insurance the team potentially collects on his contract.
It’s quite depressing if you really stop and think about how far Tulowitzki has fallen in the last three years. Yes, he was injury-prone prior to the Blue Jays getting him in 2015, but he was never away from the field for a full calendar year.
As a Rockie, Tulo missed most of the 2012 season with groin injury, but at least there was the promise of a bounce-back from a 27-year-old shortstop. The Blue Jays are in a completely different scenario with a 32-year-old version of Tulowitzki who has yet to run on the field.
In retrospect, of all the 2015 deadline deals, the Tulowitzki trade is the one the Blue Jays are still paying for … quite literally. With an additional $39 million on the books owing to Tulowitzki and $20 million write-off for this year, there’s a potential for a $60 million sunk cost for the rest of his contract.
Tulowitzki had some big hits for the Blue Jays in 2015. He sparked the Game 3 rally against the Rangers in the 2015 ALDS with his three-run home run. He had some big hits against the Royals in the 2015 ALCS. Other than that, what are Tulo’s lasting memories with the Blue Jays?
Sadly, there aren’t many.
In his three years as a Blue Jay, Tulo’s played 238 regular season games, which isn’t even a season-and-a-half of baseball with the Blue Jays. There’s no indication he’ll return later this season, so that’s three-plus years of paying Tulowitzki and he’s been around for just under half of it.
I don’t want to say for certain that Tulowitzki will never play baseball again; writing off a 32-year old is a little presumptuous, despite the severity of his injuries and his lengthy rehab process. But with the Blue Jays seemingly moving onto other players and plans at shortstop, it’s difficult to see a spot for Tulo if and when he ever returns.
The Blue Jays are going through a similar process with Russell Martin right now. With one year remaining on his contract, it’s easy to see him conceding some playing time to Danny Jansen next year or moving out from behind the plate.
Martin seems receptive to changing roles. Heck, he wants to play the infield. He isn’t naive to the fact that he’s a 36-year-old catcher with over 1,500 games played behind the plate.
In the case of Tulowitzki, it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to concede a position or is welcome to a different role on the club. That’s from what he’s said publicly, at least. After what he’s endured this year, perhaps Tulo’s seen the writing on the wall … that he isn’t the everyday shortstop for the Blue Jays anymore.
It’s easy to bet against Tulowitzki and write him off because he hasn’t played for the Blue Jays in one whole year. That’s a long time to be away from the team; not in the clubhouse, not travelling with the club.
The Jays have undergone significant infield changes in the meantime. It’s hard to envision a veteran player like Tulowitzki fitting in on this roster in the near future.
Just as quickly as young players can ascend to become perennial All-Stars, Tulowitzki is a stark reminder of the exact opposite. Three years ago, he was a Top 5 shortstop. Today, he remains a $39 million dollar question mark for the Blue Jays.