Which Teams Need Troy Tulowitzki?
The Troy Tulowitzki era appears to be nearing an end in Colorado.
The New York Post's Joel Sherman reported on Tuesday that Tulowitzki will meet with his agent on Thursday morning to discuss whether or not to ask Rockies management for a trade. With Colorado in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, and with an 11-18 record that puts them last in the National League West, 9.5 games behind the Dodgers, Tulo is apparently tired of all the losing.
Colorado has not had a winning season since 2010, and it appears 2015 will be more of the same. Individually, he's had a strange season. He's walked just twice in 108 plate appearances for an impossible-to-believe 1.9% walk rate, far lower than his career average of 9.9%. And while his batting average (.298) is decent and his slugging percentage (.481) is OK, he has hit just two homers and driven in only 10 so far this year.
Of course, Tulowitzki is the face of the franchise, and while Colorado has had ample opportunity to trade him in recent seasons, they have not done so yet and don't appear overly anxious to do so at the moment.
Sources: #Rockies not ready to talk about a Tulo trade. Looking for pitching, preferably at low acquisition cost.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 12, 2015
No one doubts Tulowitzki is one of the most talented players in baseball, and would make virtually any team's shortstop situation immediately better. But there are three things that could make trading Tulo rather difficult.
First, there is his injury history, which is long and distinguished. He hasn't played in more than 126 games in a season since 2011, and if you need to remember how long ago that was, consider that was the season the Philadelphia Phillies won 102 games. Last year, he was on his way to a sure-fire MVP season, worth 5.3 fWAR through the first 91 games, before an injured hip wiped out the rest of his season.
Second, his contract is cost prohibitive, especially for an oft-injured player. He is owed $114 million over the next six years, which takes him through his age 36 season. Anyone who thinks he's going to be worth the $15 million he's owed in that final year is probably kidding themselves.
Third, whatever team wants him will have to come up with at least one premier pitching prospect and one secondary pitching prospect with upside, along with maybe another long-range piece. And with the way teams are coveting their young, controllable minor league prospects, there may not be a team willing to give up such a player.
Still, there are teams who will be interested, the Mets, Pirates, Mariners and Padres among them, according to Sherman. Let's break it down and add maybe one or two more.
New York Mets
Wilmer Flores has been holding down the fort most of the time so far this year, batting .245/.297/.415 in 102 plate appearances heading into Wednesday. Any conversation with New York would probably have to involve the man who made his Major League debut on Wednesday, Noah Syndergaard, or perhaps even Jacob deGrom. And that may be a price too rich for the Mets' blood.
I have a hard time believing Pittsburgh would be very interested. They have Korean import Jung-ho Kang doing a decent job there, hitting .309/.361/.491 in 61 plate appearances, already worth 0.6 fWAR, not to mention he's signed to a four-year, $11 million deal. Double-A starter Tyler Glasnow, their top prospect according to Baseball America, would have to be the lead in any deal. Plus, it's hard to remember the last time the Pirates acquired a player with the kind of money left on Tulo's contract.
Seattle could definitely be in play, with Brad Miller's .239/.304/.380 slash line in 104 plate appearances staring at them in the face. The Mariners were expected to contend this year, but other than outfielder Nelson Cruz, hasn't gotten much out of their lineup. Tulo would add excitement and another offensive bat, and the M's are not averse to taking on money at the moment. But would Seattle give up a stud pitcher like Taijuan Walker, or even Roenis Elias or James Paxton?
San Diego Padres
Ah, yes, the Padres and general manager A.J. Preller. You can't count these guys out and, even with an improved offense, the aggressive Preller could easily make a play for Tulowitzki. Alexi Amarista has not been good this year, batting .183/.302/.268 in 96 plate appearances so far this season, so the need for an upgrade is obvious. But does San Diego have enough to offer Colorado?
New York Yankees
It was surprising to hear the Yankees not mentioned by Sherman as one of the potential teams with interest. Didi Gregorius has batted just .211/.276/.242 in 106 plate appearances this season, and that's kinda bad. Luis Severino would seem to be the most likely candidate to be featured in any deal, but given concerns about the long-term stability of the rotation, New York would be hard pressed to trade away their best young pitching prospect.
Why not Houston? They're winning now and are going with a combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar at shortstop, with minimal success. Houston has Mark Appel who they could dangle as the lead in any deal, although he's coming off a rough 2014 and there are questions about whether he can become a true staff ace. But this is a possibility that should seriously be considered by both sides.
(FOLLOW UP-SI's Jay Jaffee reminded me about Carlos Correa, perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball, as the heir apparent at shortstop. So you can probably cross the Astros off the list. I'm a dunderhead.)
One thing that will help in any deal is that Tulowitzki does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, although Rockies owner Dick Monfort has said in the past he would make sure Tulo OKs any deal in the future. But seeing as how it appears Tulowitzki himself is initiating the trade talk, one would assume he wouldn't be terribly picky, as long as he's being moved to a playoff contender.
It won't be easy to move him. But with Tulo healthy and showing a willingness to move, now seems like the last, best opportunity to get the maximum value in return for the player who, when healthy, is the best shortstop in all of baseball.