Two weeks after conducting a workout designed to confirm his recovery from injuries that kept him from the field since the summer of 2017, Tulowitzki had his pick of at least a dozen teams willing to take a low-cost chance on the 34-year-old former All-Star. The Toronto Blue Jays released Tulowitzki on Dec. 11 and are responsible for the remainder of his $38 million contract over two years.
The Yankees will pay Tulowitzki the league minimum salary — $555,000 — for next season. The Blue Jays will pay the remainder. He is likely to play shortstop for the Yankees at least for as long as Didi Gregorius needs to recover from Tommy John surgery. Gregorius is expected to miss at least half the 2019 season. The Yankees met on Dec. 19 with free agent shortstop Manny Machado and could continue that pursuit. Tulowitzki has expressed a willingness to play positions other than shortstop.
In the run-up to Tulowitzki’s open workout, in which he fielded ground balls and took batting practice, teams were provided the player’s most recent medical reports. Tulowitzki missed all or significant portions of four of the past seven seasons because of a variety of injuries, most recently bone spurs in both of his ankles that required surgery.
Before that, as a Colorado Rockie, Tulowitzki was a regular All-Star who three times finished in the National League’s MVP top eight. He won two Gold Gloves and five times hit at least 24 home runs. He was a career .299 hitter in 9 ½ seasons for the Rockies. As part of the club’s redesign, Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays in the summer of 2015. Overrun by injuries, Tulowitzki played in 238 games over 3 ½ seasons in Toronto. His numbers fell, a reflection of his physical ailments and the move away from hitter-friendly Coors Field.
As Tulowitzki worked himself back from his latest physical misfortune, the Blue Jays chose to set him loose. Under new manager Charlie Montoyo and undertaking their own rebuild in the competitive AL East, the Blue Jays preferred to cover shortstop with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Richard Ureña or, perhaps soon, Bo Bichette or Kevin Smith. Also, Tulowitzki had seemed reluctant to change positions.
The result was a low-risk Tulowitzki on the open market, and an energized Tulowitzki moving freely on a college field in Southern California, refusing to make predictions of his return but also unable to hide an optimistic smile.
“To be able to bounce back,” he said after his workout, “that’s really the mark of a champion. I love the game.”
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