From 2009 through 2014, Troy Tulowitzki’s 27.7 WAR ranked 12th among position players. The players ranked around Tulowitzki at that time present a decent snapshot of his standing today. At 10 is Dustin Pedroia, who didn’t play in 2018. Behind Pedroia is Matt Holliday, who was semi-retired for much of last season. Behind Tulo is Chase Utley, who just retired, and behind him is Albert Pujols, who has been a replacement level player since 2015. Given that company, it perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that Troy Tulowitzki was granted his release by the Toronto Blue Jays today.
What is somewhat surprising is that Tulowitzki was released with the Blue Jays owing the former star shortstop $38 million over the next two years, including a buyout on an option for 2021. Tulowitzki didn’t play at all last season, and as Jay Jaffe noted in August, the track record of shortstops who miss entire seasons in their 30s is not good. He also noted just how good Tulowitzki was in his 20s.
The bad news is that the likelihood of ever seeing 2009-14 Tulowitzki again appears remote, which is a shame, because that guy looked as though he had a shot at Cooperstown. Through his age-29 season, he had accumulated 37.8 bWAR, 16th all-time and ahead of 12 of the 21 enshrined shortstops. He may well wind up this generation’s Nomar Garciaparra. The Boston icon had complied 41.2 bWAR through age 29 (the 2003 season), close to the seven-year peak standard for Hall of Fame shortstops (42.9); in fact, Garciaparra’s actual peak score of 43.0 edges past it. But because his career ended after his age-35 season, he finished with 1,771 hits, 220 homers and 44.2 WAR, numbers too low for Hall consideration. Tulowitzki (1,389 hits and 224 homers) isn’t even to Nomah’s level yet.
Jaffe held out some hope for a rebound, but that rebound won’t happen with the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki came to Toronto in 2015 in exchange for Jose Reyes and a few pitching prospects as the Blue Jays roared to the playoffs. After a solid 2016 season, Tulowitzki only played for half of 2017 and didn’t play well when he did. His heel trouble caused him to miss all of 2018. He is reportedly in better health now and will try to latch on with some team for the major league minimum next year; Susan Slusser has reported that the A’s are a possible destination.
As for Toronto, the team viewed the money as a sunk cost and decided that some as yet unknown player had more potential as to contribute on the field than Tulowitzki did. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will get an opportunity to play shortstop if the Blue Jays make no other additions. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 38 players. Toronto is at least listening to offers for Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. It could be that the team is looking to add multiple players in a trade who would need to be on the 40-man. It’s also possible the team is about to sign a free agent or needs some extra roster space for the Rule 5 draft later this week. Tulowitzki will try to get an opportunity to play for another team while the Blue Jays try to make better use of his roster spot.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.