TORONTO – Some thoughts on the Troy Tulowitzki trade, which the Toronto Blue Jays announced Tuesday morning:
• In some ways this deal is reminiscent of Alex Anthopoulos’s moves over the winter, when he signed Russell Martin even though the Blue Jays already had Dioner Navarro and acquired Josh Donaldson when Brett Lawrie was already in place, finding gains without addressing primary needs. Tulowitzki is a better shortstop than Jose Reyes, arguably the best all-around in the game. “It’s a marginal upgrade, but an upgrade,” says a rival executive, speculating Tulowitzki might be worth one extra win over Reyes. Whatever the case, is his addition enough without more help for the starting rotation? Likely not.
• Given the above, at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Jays also tried to address left field before the deadline passes. The versatile Ben Zobrist makes a lot of sense, but so might someone like Gerardo Parra of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Blue Jays have already been talking to them about starter Mike Fiers. Both Zobrist and Parra are free agents at the end of the year, which is fine since the Blue Jays have the injured Michael Saunders under control for 2016.
• The reaction of another rival executive to the trade: “This reeks of, ‘This is it, we’re going for it.’ But if they don’t get pitching, they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
• Speaking of pitching, the Blue Jays still have three close-to-the-majors prospects they can use in left-handers Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, plus outfielder Dalton Pompey. Such players may be tempting for teams looking to retool as opposed to rebuild, with both the Detroit Tigers (David Price) and the Chicago White Sox (Jeff Samardzija) fitting that mould.
• I reported Sunday that a deal between the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians for starter Carlos Carrasco died at the finish line for unknown reasons. Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reported Monday that Jeff Hoffman, part of the Tulowitzki deal, along with Norris and Pompey would have gone to Cleveland in that deal.
• Tulowitzki underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip last August, and has had no issues since. Still, there’s some concern what effect his transition to turf might have, even though the Blue Jays obviously aren’t worried. “He’s a great, great player,” said the second rival executive, “but you’re taking a guy with a bad hip and putting him on turf.” Fair point, but it’s not like Reyes was free from health issues. Given Reyes’ diminishing range, the $48 million he’s due over the next two years including the buyout for his 2018 option could have turned nuclear. At minimum that issue is deferred for a couple of years with Tulowitzki, who’s under contract through 2020.
• Is the addition of LaTroy Hawkins enough to bolster the bullpen in concert with Aaron Sanchez’s switch back to relief? Maybe, and it certainly looks better than it did a few days ago, but what if the Blue Jays sought out a reliever with control along with a rental starter? That might solve a couple of needs and make the spending of prospect capital a bit more palatable.
• When the trade happened I wrote that Tulowitzki gives the Blue Jays another core piece along with Donaldson and Martin that insulates them from the potential departures of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion after the 2016 season. Once source wondered if adding Tulowitzki would allow them to move one of them sooner, even before Friday’s deadline, for pitching help. That would be a departure for Alex Anthopoulos, who as a policy wouldn’t ask 10 and 5 players to waive their no-trade rights. But under the circumstances, all bets may be off.