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MLB The Show

31 Mar 2018

Toronto Blue Jays: Time to talk about Troy Tulowitzki

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A former star

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A litany of injuries

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What's next?

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Final thoughts

(Photo Credit: Terry Foote)

We need to talk about Troy Tulowitzki.

No, not the Troy Tulowitzki that won two Gold Gloves and appeared in five All-Star Games for the Colorado Rockies many moons ago. I mean the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki that has suffered injury after injury in what otherwise would have been a storied Hall of Fame career, and should seriously consider retirement after his latest stint on the disabled list.

Tulowitzki was placed on the 60-day DL with bone spurs in his right heel yesterday, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Blue Jays beat writer Gregor Chisholm reported earlier today that Tulowitzki would undergo surgery to repair bone spurs in both heels, with an AP report stating the former All-Star would be out for a minimum of eight weeks.

A former star

What's sad about Tulowitzki's plethora of injuries is that they robbed him of becoming one of the best young shortstops in the game. The man debuted with the Rockies at age 21 in 2006 and took the National League by storm the following year, batting .291 with 24 home runs and 97 RBI as Colorado went on a miracle run to the World Series before being swept by the Boston Red Sox. Tulowitzki finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and the sky seemed the limit.

How wrong we all were. The 2007 season was the first of just two seasons, the other being 2009, in which Tulowitzki would play in at least 150 games, and he has reached the 140 game mark just one other time besides that, in 2011.

A litany of injuries

And what kept Tulowitzki off the field varies from top to bottom, quite literally.

Year Injury Total games missed (including rest days)
2008Torn quad, hand laceration61
2010Fractured wrist40
2012Groin injury, required surgery115
2013Fractured rib36
2014Torn hip labrum71
2015Cracked shoulder blade34
2016Strained quad31
2017Strained hamstring, sprained ankle96

Even though maintenance days are accounted for in Tulowitzki's total number of games missed, it's still crystal clear he has missed an uncharacteristic amount of action for a five-time All-Star. What's even crazier is that after the 2010 season, the Rockies gave Tulowitzki a six-year, $120m extension on top of a six-year, $31m extension signed before the 2008 season. Even though he didn't have a reputation as being an injury-prone player back then, the deal now looks quite different considering its recipient's history.

What's next?

Just where Tulowitzki goes from here remains to be seen. He may only be 33 years old, but his body plays more like he's 73, with all the injuries he has suffered. Tulowitzki is also meant to earn $20m in 2018 and has another two years and $34m in guaranteed money remaining on his contract. His deal also holds a $15m club option for 2021, but the odds of the Blue Jays picking that up are the same as New Yorkers stopping enjoying pizza.

Also, it's not as though the Blue Jays are sunk without Tulowitzki. He has been a sub-3 WAR player since 2015 and his isolated power (ISO) dropped to .129 last year, well below his respectable mark of .205. His line drive rate also dropped to 14.4% from 19.2% and his ground ball rate jumped 12 points from 40.5% to 52.5%, and his soft contact rate ballooned from 15.4% to 24.8%. Be it slower bat speed, confidence issues, or both, something has affected his ability to make good contact with the ball.

Long story short, though he's still a decent fielder, it's not as though the Blue Jays need him desperately.

Moreover, as Spotrac shows, he's the second-most expensive player on a Toronto team that will be lucky to sniff AL Wild Card contention in 2018. His injury history makes him nigh on impossible to trade to another team, at least not without the Blue Jays picking up most of his remaining salary. The man is an albatross and the sooner Toronto can decide what to do with him, the better.

Final thoughts

The Blue Jays have to do one of two things with Tulowitzki, and neither is an easy decision. The team must either trade him and eat tens of millions of dollars to do so, or approach him about a potential buyout. There's the possibility he could return in eight weeks and look like his old self again, but history tells us that's highly unlikely.

Toronto also has former St. Louis Cardinals prospect Aledmys Diaz on the team now. He isn't a strong fielder, as his -13 DRS at shortstop shows, but his bat could make up for it (133 wRC+ in 2016) if he can regain the form a hand injury robbed from him last year.

The long and short of it is that Troy Tulowitzki's best days are long behind him, and he needs to accept that before he continues to hurt himself more.