There's no doubt Troy Tulowitzki(notes) currently looks a lot happier than he does in this picture to the right. The Colorado Rockies, after all, just handed him a six-year extension worth $119 million, four offseasons earlier than necessary.
For a self-styled Dirtbag who loves growing mullets and working on old Camaros, that amount — combined with the $45 million he's already owed — is more money than he could spend. Who wouldn't be happy and smiling right now?
However, if you're looking for the type of hands-on-the-hips skepticism that Tulo seemingly displays in that pic, we already wrote that you don't have to go far to seek it. The backlash against the Rockies for committing that much money to an asset that was already secured through 2014 was swift and it'll likely remain the main punching bag of the day, if not the next week (or decade, if this thing really goes wrong).
The opposition to GM Dan O'Dowd's greenlighting of this deal — deftly led by Jeff Passan — is understandable. The Rockies could have waited another year or two to better assess their shortstop's future worth to the team and still have seen him accept a deal if they still felt he was worth one. That type of patience is probably prudent when you're dealing with 1) a player who has already seen a few trips to the DL in his career, 2) Todd Helton's(notes) current albatross contract already on your books and 3) a player budget that may not raise much from its current level of $85 million by the time the "new" part of the deal begins in 2015.
Still, I can't let our cynicism completely say that there isn't any wisdom on the Rockies' end of the deal. There are some benefits to this contract, it just requires accepting that every long-term agreement comes with a great deal of risk — and an assured decline in value — when it comes to output on the field. We must also accept that baseball isn't operating in a universe where all teams and markets are created equal (something that's somehow much easier to do when smaller-market teams like the Rockies aren't committing themselves to nine-figure contracts).
As we saw with the Minnesota Twins jumping the gun last offseason and locking up Joe Mauer(notes) forevermore, teams in smaller markets are facing a situation in which they must offer a lot of security earlier than necessary. Doing this keeps the big-market wolves like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at bay, not even allowing them the chance to steal their homegrown stars. It's not exactly fair or equitable, but it's all part of today's payroll game. If you want to keep a star that's going to build confidence within your fanbase and keep them clicking through the turnstiles — something that every team except the Florida Marlins hopes to do — it's just something that has to be done.
Mauer's contract extension, of course, only came one year ahead of schedule, but the Twins still had to plop down eight years and $189 million to ensure that no one else had a chance to bid for his services on the open market. Compare that to the Tulowitzki deal, which guarantees six years of $119 million in "new" money to a player who has a much better chance of finishing his contract at his premium position than Mauer does. If the two situations aren't quite equal, you can at least see where the Rockies are coming from if you share their belief that he'll continue being one of the premier talents in the game.
Also, let's look at it this way: If the Rockies waited a few seasons to offer the extension, they run the risk of his eyes more easily straying toward bigger paychecks elsewhere as well as having to offer more money over the same six or seven years. If the new name of the game is locking up your young talent early at an affordable rate — something the Rockies did with Tulo's first contract — why not make the next logical jump and earn some savings on the next one?
When it all comes down to it, I think everyone's reservations are based on the fact that the Rockies opened their checkbook earlier than they had to. If this deal happens two years from today, there's a good chance it gets met with universal applause.
However, if you can get past the element of risk — something the Rockies were apparently able to do — you can also see the possibility that the team just pulled a shrewd move with their new face of the franchise.