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Officials from the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies are expected to meet at the GM/owners' meetings in Orlando this week and discuss parameters of a potential trade involving Troy Tulowitzki, which already has been broached in informal talks between the parties, sources with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports.
Not only have the Cardinals shown significant interest in Tulowitzki, the Rockies' 29-year-old shortstop, they've inquired about the availability of a shortstop from the Texas Rangers, who have Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, sources said.
St. Louis' preference is to fill its gaping hole at shortstop with Tulowitzki, considered the best at the position in the major leagues. While Rockies ownership has said publicly it has no intentions of trading Tulowitzki, privately it continues to weigh advantages of freeing itself from the final seven years and $134 million guaranteed remaining on his contract against the loss of a superstar and the public-relations hit of trading a beloved homegrown player.
Should the Rockies change their mind and deal Tulowitzki, his contract calls for an additional $2 million “assignment bonus” and would immediately grant him no-trade provisions. St. Louis projects as a good fit for Tulowitzki. Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, a former teammate in Colorado, is a close friend, and with the Rockies languishing in last place for the second consecutive season, St. Louis, coming off World Series appearances in two of the last three years, would provide the immediate contender Tulowitzki covets.
Certainly the Cardinals have the pieces to land him – or, if the Rockies balk, one of the Rangers' shortstops. Between a logjam at first base and a surplus of hard-throwing, young arms, St. Louis has stockpiled the sort of talent to pull off a 3- or 4-for-1 deal. In a previous conversation between the teams about a possible Tulowitzki deal, first baseman Matt Adams' name surfaced, with Colorado needing a long-term replacement for the retiring Todd Helton and St. Louis unlikely to trade Allen Craig because his team-friendly contract keeps him under control as long as Adams.
In addition, the Rockies would like to add at least one young starter to a pair of promising right-handed prospects: Jonathan Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, and Eddie Butler, who blew away scouts at the Futures Game with a power sinker that topped out at 98 mph. Shelby Miller especially would fit that slot, with Lance Lynn a less-desirable option; the Cardinals, sources said, would not entertain a deal that includes rookie Michael Wacha. St. Louis likely would need to include either lefty flamethrower Kevin Siegrist or closer Trevor Rosenthal, and perhaps one more piece, depending on how hard a bargain Colorado plans on driving.
St. Louis soon will find out. With the GM meetings and owners meetings taking place simultaneously, it gives the Cardinals the opportunity to consult with Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who sits atop Colorado's convoluted hierarchy in which general manager Dan O'Dowd cedes day-to-day operations of the major league roster to Bill Geivett. Executives from other teams are uncertain who holds final decision-making authority in Colorado, leaving Monfort the best point person in a potential trade of this magnitude.
While Monfort a month ago told The Denver Post "my plan is always to keep" Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado's other high-paid star, he implied carrying the salaries of both going forward might not be tenable. He also took a shot at Tulowitzki's leadership skills, calling him a me-first player, the sort of assertion with which several people in the Rockies organization strongly disagree.
The Cardinals gladly will take him as a replacement for Pete Kozma. Despite more than $75 million committed to seven players for 2014, sources said St. Louis believes it has enough room in its budget to absorb Tulowitzki's $16 million salary, which jumps to $20 million a year for the five years after before dipping to $14 million in 2020 and ending with a $15 million option (including a $4 million buyout) in 2021.
In his seven full seasons, Tulowitzki has been the game's most productive shortstop, hitting .297/.369/.516 with 154 home runs and setting the standard defensively as well. The greatest fear with acquiring Tulowitzki is his injury history, though some executives believe an eventual move to third base could lessen the wear and tear on his body and enliven his bat even more.
The GM meetings often serve as the starting point for trade discussions that play out over the winter. With a fairly top-heavy free agent class all in search of nine-figure contracts, potential deals for Tampa Bay starter David Price, Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and Detroit starter Max Scherzer could materialize over chit-chat that turns into more. The blockbuster trade between Miami and Toronto last offseason sprouted from a GM meetings discussion.
Other subjects to be broached by owners include a discussion of instant replay, a vote to allow Ray Davis to take over as controlling owner of the Texas Rangers and commissioner Bud Selig's annual speech on free agent spending. The biggest item on GMs' agendas is a potential ban on home-plate collisions with catchers.