Tulowitzki’s Legacy in Toronto a Complicated One

(Archive Post) This was originally written on December 12, 2018.

On Tuesday, December 10th, 2018, in a move that cost them $38 million, the Toronto Blue Jays released shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

If that’s a sentence you were expecting to hear today, put your hand up.

Now, please, if you raised it, put your hand down. If you’re within the fanbase of the Toronto Blue Jays, you may have been hoping for a transaction like this to occur, but there’s no one outside of the Blue Jays organization that had any idea that this could have been a possibility. The belief for a long time was that the money (Again, $38 Million) was too much to simply waster by releasing him.

There was also a feeling, in the back of many minds, that if the Blue Jays were to simply cut ties with their shortstop, something would feel incomplete about his tenure in Toronto.

Troy Tulowitzki, the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop, and Troy Tulowitzki, the Colorado Rockies shortstop, are two very different players. Looking strictly at player value, Tulowitzki has a career bWAR¹ of 44.1². That is a number that some would consider worthy of the Hall of Fame – Harold Baines was just elected with a career bWAR of 38.7. However, there’s a problem with taking that number as a whole. Looking at Tulowitzki as a player, one must factor in his numbers from his Blue Jays tenure, and they aren’t as pretty. He produced 4.8 bWAR from mid-2015 to 2017 with Toronto, a number he topped in numerous single seasons in Colorado (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014).

Factor in the injuries that he faced, and it wasn’t pretty.

It’s easy to forget that the Blue Jays, then led by now-Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, acquired Tulowitzki as the last piece to push their 2015 team into contention. The former Colorado superstar replaced Jose Reyes, who was struggling both defensively and offensively. He joined an infield that already included breakout star Chris Colabello and future MVP Josh Donaldson. The hope for the team was that the swap of Reyes for Tulowitzki would push the infield into becoming the best in the league, and his first impression to Jays fans was actually extremely positive – he finished his Jays debut with a homer and two doubles in a game against Philadelphia.

Despite the quick excitement, he would never get to his full potential in his new home. Even the postseason was very hit or miss for Tulowitzki – he hit .095 against the Rangers in 2015’s ALDS, .304 against the Royals in the following ALCS, .462 against the Rangers in the 2016 rematch, and .111 against Cleveland in the team’s final postseason series to this point. He simply didn’t gain the fans, or have the consistent success he could be proud of in Colorado.

But the success in Colorado?

Screenshot 2018-12-11 at 9.15.35 PM.png

It was unquestionable.

See, despite all the criticism given to Tulowitzki during his career’s declining years in Toronto, he’s still arguably a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

In his prime, the man nicknamed “Tulo” was not only a dangerous bat, both in the top-of-the-order “contact” sense, and in his power, but he was also an excellent defender. In Fantasy Baseball, he was consistently ranked in the top ten of any player in the sport. Even though he’s been disappointing for Jays fans, Colorado has to be a bit annoyed even now that they couldn’t have received more for him in the 2015 deal. Jose Reyes, the main major league piece of the deal, is no longer in their organization, pitcher Miguel Castro was traded after failing to consistently show the potential he flashed in Toronto earlier in the season, Jeff Hoffman’s underperformed since his call-up, and Jesus Tinoco is still in the minor leagues. In retrospect, the trade results were less than stellar on both sides. At the time, Tulowitzki was a player that played a legitimate role in helping Toronto get to the postseason.

That’s why Tulowitzki’s legacy in Toronto is so complicated. As a player, he under-performed and was consistently injured. All of that said, he was important in the context of that 2015 season. His legacy outside of the Blue Jays is much more positive.

Troy Tulowitzki’s a player that could have hit tremendous highs in Major League Baseball. He was one of the faces of the sport for several years, and he has a legitimate Hall of Fame case. It’s just unfortunate that he won’t be remembered for any of that in Toronto, and very unfortunate that his career is likely over unless he can find a minor-league deal somewhere.

“Troy Tulowitzki I” by Terry Foote is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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