Suspend reality for 2.6 seconds and forget the prospects involved. Tuesday morning’s Troy Tulowitzki-Jose Reyes trade is about as close to a fantasy baseball trade becoming a reality as we might ever see. If you’re Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos you cross your fingers and hope it plays out as well as the deal for Josh Donaldson did over the winter.
In the immediacy of this deal, one thing is clear: Toronto is going all-in to end its playoff drought dating back to 1993 — the longest in baseball. Is adding a gifted, albeit high-priced, injury-prone shortstop the way to go? Here’s the quick thoughts, pro/con style. (We’ll get to the Rockies side at the end.)
* Paper or not, a lineup that features Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion is fearsome, especially at the Rogers Centre. Throw in Russell Martin and Devon Travis and the Blue Jays lineup is hard to match.
* 18 of the Blue Jays’ remaining 24 road games are in traditionally offense-friendly parks: Yankee Stadium, Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, Globe Life Stadium, Fenway Park and Camden Yards. Toronto leads the Majors in runs (528) by a significant margin over the second-place Yankees (456). As FanGraphs notes, improving the team’s strength — power — is a positive.
* True, the commonly held thought is Toronto “needed” a starting pitcher more than another batter, but suppose they figured out a package for either of the recently traded Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir? Would one All-Star starter do much to impact Toronto’s otherwise mediocre pitching the other four days?
* Trying to win games 8-7 or 10-9 every night is stressful on a manager’s stomach lining, but fun to watch from the stands if you’re a fan.
* Tulowitzki isn’t a rental player, although he’s owed at least $94 million through 2020. $20 million per year for the player considered the best offensive shortstop in the game isn’t an outrageous salary in 2015 baseball terms, especially given the scarcity of power at the position nowadays. Toronto still maintains payroll flexibility into 2016, but Bautista and Encarnacion are both free agents after 2016.
* LaTroy Hawkins went along with Tulowitzki to Toronto and the veteran reliever has a much much better chance to win a ring before retiring after 20 seasons.
* Tulowitzki and the Rogers Centre turf sound like a terrible marriage. Baseball has a million stats but there isn’t one that can accurately predict how an injury-prone 30-year-old shortstop reacts to artificial turf. Is that enough of a red flag to stop the deal? Toronto apparently didn’t think so.
* Per this chart from Baseball-Reference, Tulowitzki’s defensive reputation is inflated:
* Tulowitzki has stayed healthy this year, playing in 82 of the Rockies 98 games. He might play his most games since he logged 140 back in 2011. Although he’s avoided any serious injuries his OPS (.818) would be the lowest since 2008.
* Again, Tulowitzki doesn’t pitch.
* The Jays gave up pitching prospects Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco. Castro, only 20, closed some games for Toronto earlier this year. Hoffman is a former first-round pick coming of Tommy John surgery. If any of the three pan out in Colorado, Toronto is back to where it started: looking for quality pitchers.
Quickly on the Rockies, who finally realized that they could finish in fifth place in the National League West with or without Tulowitzki and, per Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan decided to trade him mid-game without telling him first. This is odd since team owner Dick Monfort dragged his feet for years on trading Tulowitzki. The owner and player are close and seemed to be on the same page about the shortstop’s future, but Ken Rosenthal, who broke the trade during the morning hours, tweeted:
The prospects are the key part of the deal and there’s no way to know how any of them will actually do in the Majors. Colorado best hope is one of the players in the package emerges, unlike the Ubaldo Jiménez deal in 2011 which yielded minimal return.
As for Reyes, all the baseball reports say he’ll be traded sooner rather than later … which seems like a strange move. There wasn’t a way for Colorado to add pitching prospects (cough, cough Mets) without adding another $22 million shortstop?
Colorado is gambling it can flip both Tulowitzki and Reyes into a prospects to kickstart their rebuild. It took them years to figure out what to do with Tulowitzki and the market for Reyes might not be what they anticipate, especially since the Mets are saying they’re not interested in bringing back their former fan favorite. Something to consider on Reyes (.708 OPS in 2015) is he’s posted seven seasons of double-digit triples in his career, but has four triples (total) in the last three.
Toronto is taking a gamble, but it’s a gamble the franchise is worth taking. As of Tuesday, Toronto is 50-50, three games out of a Wild Card spot, bunched up with a half-dozen teams. Adding a player of Tulowitzki’s caliber makes them better and does give them a better shot at the playoffs.
Can the Jays go 35-27 down the stretch? Will they make another move?
Colorado? You can see what the Rockies are doing in trying to rebuild, but the way they’re going about it raises the proverbial eyebrow.