Troy Tulowitzki's Blue Jays era ends with a whimper

LAS VEGAS — The Troy Tulowitzki era in Toronto was never smooth and rarely fruitful, and it came to an abrupt end on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays announced the veteran shortstop had been released in a simply-worded Tweet that sent a ripple through the Winter Meetings. That ripple pertained to the name, not the situation, though.

Tulowitzki has an enormous stature in the game on the strength of his years as the best shortstop in the game – and at times perhaps the best position player alive. The idea of a guy like that, especially with $38 million left on his contract, just being cut is a little bit jarring. According to Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins, though, this was far from a rash decision.

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“[We decided] recently,” he said. “Not days, but weeks and maybe a month. Certainly not a decision we made in days.”

That said, a closer look shows that this was clearly the right move for the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki, who missed all of 2018 and played just 66 games in 2017, couldn’t be counted on to stay healthy enough to contribute in 2019. Even if he was, the fit was tenuous at best.

A Blue Jays club in transition has little use for a 34-year-old at any position unless they have potential as a trade asset and Tulowitzki did not considering his health and contract. Even when he last played in 2017, the five-time all-star hit just .249/.300/.378 and became a weak contact artist.

Toronto Blue Jays have released Troy Tulowitzki. (Getty)
Toronto Blue Jays have released Troy Tulowitzki. (Getty)

So, yes, this is a surprise, but it would have been more surprising to see the Blue Jays trot him out in any kind of meaningful role in 2019. The contract represents a sunk cost, and while the dead money is substantial, the club is better served by giving at-bats to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. than stubbornly attempting to extract some value from Tulowitzki simply on account of his salary.

I don’t want to get in on an accounting discussion, but that’s on our books,” Atkins said of the situation, making it clear there was no elaborate buyout agreement.

Now that it’s over, the Tulo era in Toronto will go down as a mixed bag, to put it kindly. Brought on during the magical 2015 playoff run to help push the team over the top, the shortstop did nothing of the sort hitting just .239/.317/.390 down the stretch and floundering in the playoffs.

He did solidify a problematic shortstop spot defensively, but the Blue Jays were hoping for a superstar and he certainly wasn’t that. From the very beginning, a trade with the Colorado Rockies that no one won didn’t seem like it was paying off.

In 2016, Toronto got the closest thing they’d see to a vintage Tulowitzki season – and it was more quietly productive than extraordinary. His 3.0 WAR year included a .254/.318/.443 line and 24 home runs as well as some solid play in the field.

“[I’ll remember] the steady nature of his defence and the remarkable accuracy of his throwing,” Atkins said of his best days with the Blue Jays. “The intensity of his at-bats, every one of them. And always feeling like there was a chance for the ball to go out of the ballpark.”

From there, bright spots weren’t few and far between, they were non-existent. Ultimately, the Blue Jays have paid approximately Tulowitzki $105 million and gotten just one season that could even be described as ‘good’. The gamble by Alex Anthopoulos was understandable in the moment, but probably the worst of his career.

Now Tulowitzki gets a new start, something he was clearly looking for.



Unfortunately for a guy who was once on a Hall of Fame pace, it’s hard to imagine a big league club giving him what he seeks.

Describing the end of Tulowitzki’s tenure with the Blue Jays, Atkins perfectly described it in its entirety.

“It’s not the way anyone would plan it, or write it up, or script it.”

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