Blue Jays Trade Tree: Revisiting Tulowitzki trade 730 days later

Friday, July 28 marks the two-year anniversary of the Troy Tulowitzki trade to Toronto. Here’s how things stand 730 days later.

The Trade

On July 28, 2015 then Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired Tulowitzki along with reliever LaTroy Hawkins from his Colorado Rockies counterpart Jeff Bridich in exchange for big league shortstop Jose Reyes along with minor league pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco.

No money was exchanged in the deal, although Tulowitzki picked up a $2-million assignment bonus and had a full no-trade clause added to his contract.

The Prospects

The player Anthopolous least wanted to part with, and the player Bridich insisted be a part of the transaction, was Jeff Hoffman. And for good reason. Selected ninth overall by the Blue Jays in the 2014 draft, many believed Hoffman had the potential to go first overall if he wasn’t coming off of Tommy John surgery performed during his junior year of college.

Hoffman reached the majors at 23 as a late-season call-up in 2016 and started 2017 season in the minors before he was recalled again in early May to join Colorado’s rotation. In his 12 starts since, opposition hitters are batting .271/.336/.435 against him.

But those stats are skewed by a pair of disastrous outings in which Hoffman was very ineffective and gave up nearly half the runs he’s allowed as a starter. Still only 24, and with a fastball that’s averaged 95-m.p.h. at the big-league level, Colorado hopes Hoffman’s best days are still ahead of him.

Like Hoffman, 6-foot-7 right-hander Miguel Castro came with plenty of upside at the time of the trade, as he was coming off a 2014 season that saw him put up a 2.69 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in the minors as a 19-year-old. He flashed a 97-m.p.h. fastball with an intriguing slider and change-up combination, pitching with a long delivery that made things awfully uncomfortable for hitters. Castro was so impressive that the Blue Jays took him north on their opening day roster in 2015, despite the fact he had pitched only 30 innings above low-A.

In hindsight, that was perhaps premature. Castro pitched to a 4.38 ERA in 13 appearances for the Blue Jays before he was sent down to the minors in May, where he remained until the Rockies acquired him. The subsequent two years featured a litany of starts and stops for Castro, who bounced between the majors and minors, pitching to a 7.20 ERA in 24 appearances for the Rockies before they designated him for assignment early this year.

That precipitated a trade to the Orioles on April 7 this year (for a player-to-be-named or cash), who have featured Castro out of their bullpen since mid-June, mostly in situations when Baltimore is trailing. He’s been pretty good, pitching to a 2.70 ERA across 20 appearances. However, the fact Castro no longer strikes anyone out — he has only 12 punch outs over 26.2 innings — has to be somewhat concerning.

At the time of the deal, Jesus Tinoco was a mid-level prospect for the Blue Jays, landing at no. 16 on Kiley McDaniel’s 2015 prospect rankings at FanGraphs. McDaniel had Tinoco’s fastball sitting at 92-95 m.p.h. — and hitting 97 — with heavy sink, and saw the right-hander as a potential starter with three above average pitches.

In the two years since, Tinoco has struggled mightily, topping out at high-A where he has a 6.34 ERA over 21 starts spanning two seasons. You won’t find him on top prospect lists any longer, but at only 22, he still has time to turn things around.

The Aftermath

The immediate aftermath of the Troy Tulowitzki deal was terrific for Toronto, as the Blue Jays won 43 or their 61 remaining games after the trade and romped to their first American League East title in more than two decades. Toronto reached the ALCS, falling to the Kansas City Royals in six games, before returning to the league championship series in 2016 as a wild card team and losing again, this time to Cleveland.

It’s impossible to say whether the Blue Jays would have enjoyed such postseason success if they had not added Tulowitzki. What we do know is that the now 32-year-old’s production has not been up to the lofty standard he set for himself earlier in his career.

Tulowitzki is batting .250/.313/.415 in his two-and-a-half seasons as a member of the Blue Jays. Contrast that to the .290/.361/.495 line he put up over a decade with the Rockies and it’s safe to say Toronto didn’t receive exactly the calibre of player they thought they were.

Tulowitzki’s defence has also declined of late in terms of defensive runs saved (DRS) (he’s gone from 10 in 2016 to one in 2017) and UZR (4.9 in 2016 to -1.7 in 2017). He’s owed $58-million over the next three years (including a $4-million buyout of his 2021 option) as he plays out the back end of the 10-year, $157.75 million contract he signed with Colorado in 2010 when he was one of the premier offensive and defensive shortstops in the game.

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Tulowitzki played in three extended spring training games before serving a one-game rehab assignment with the high-A Dunedin Blue Jays. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Of course, the Blue Jays were able to take on all that aging shortstop money because they were simultaneously getting rid of their own aging shortstop money in Jose Reyes. At the time of the deal, Reyes was owed $44-million over the next two seasons (including a $4-million buyout of his 2018 option) and, at 32, looked to be well into his decline.

Reyes’ Colorado tenure lasted only 47 games. In early 2016, he was charged with domestic violence and suspended 51 games by MLB. As soon as he was eligible to return from his suspension, the Rockies designated Reyes for assignment and released him. He has since caught on with the New York Mets, who he is batting .227/.290/.389 for over 97 games this season as a 34-year-old.

Oh, and let’s not forget LaTroy Hawkins, who pitched to a 2.76 ERA over 18 appearances for the Blue Jays at the end of 2015. He was victimized in the postseason, however, as he allowed seven runs in the three playoff appearances he made, earning only five outs against the 14 batters he faced. He retired immediately after the season and currently works as a special assistant with the Minnesota Twins.

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