Troy Tulowitzki, 34, has not played Major League Baseball in a year and a half. He hasn’t been a solid regular in over two years. He hasn’t been a star in over four.
I say that up front not to degrade a guy who was, at one time, both a tremendous bat and a tremendous defender at short. And I don’t say it to imply he cannot be a useful player going forward, following surgery last year to remove bone spurs in his heels.
Instead, I’m saying it to underscore that this is almost certainly not a guy that a contender can sign to *definitely* be a starter right now. The rebuilding Blue Jays, who know him as well as any other club, decided to release him and eat his substantial salary just so that they can have a roster spot. Tulowitzki, now a free agent, is going to find a team to sign him, but if he wants a chance to start on a contender, he’s going to have to sign as something more like a utility guy, and then win a job from there.
Sounds, to me, like a perfect fit for the Cubs, who’ll have opportunities in the middle infield for at least the first month of the season while Addison Russell is suspended, and if he’s gone more permanently, then there is even more opportunity for Tulowitzki. So, when he was attached to the Cubs by rumor, I liked it as a buy-low, why-not situation.
But that was before the Cubs signed Daniel Descalso to provide similar coverage in the infield and on the bench. To be sure, a good Tulowitzki provides something fundamentally different than Descalso, and there could still be roster maneuvering that makes Tulowitzki a good fit (and, heck, it’s gonna be a big league minimum deal, so whatever either way). But if you’re Tulowitzki, with the background I described above, is this Cubs team, with this roster, where you want to try to win a job again? Remember: his salary, minus the minimum, is already being paid by the Blue Jays. Where he decides to sign is going to be entirely about his own preference.
Anyway, that’s all kind of a preamble to the newsy part of this post, which is that Tulowitzki worked out for about a dozen teams – including the Cubs – and reportedly looked good:
What @TBrownYahoo saw from Troy Tulowitzki today dovetails with what a number in attendance told me: He looks fit, he’s moving very well and if he’s anything like he was today, he’s going to be able to help a contender. And for the minimum salary at that. https://t.co/2fLEPvZ1c4
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 19, 2018
Tim Brown’s article suggests that as many as six teams suggested to Tulowitzki that he could be their next starting shortstop or second baseman or third baseman, though that could just be the kind of talk you offer when trying to woo a guy that you can’t really woo with money.
Among the other teams that attended: The Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Many of those clubs could more clearly offer Tulowitzki a real shot to win a starting job for the full season than the Cubs … unless they’re definitely ready to part with Addison Russell. In that case, the Cubs would still have coverage from Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist, Daniel Descalso, and David Bote in the middle infield, but a full-time job could definitely be available to a healthy and effective Tulowitzki.
If you’re Tulowitzki, though, can you bank on the Cubs parting with Russell when there might be other, surer options available for you to play?
And if you’re the Cubs, just how boldly can you promise playing time to a guy who is coming off a year and a half lost to injuries and surgeries, and is now in his mid-30s?
This remains an interesting story to follow, but I tend to think the Descalso signing makes it much less likely that Tulowitzki would choose the Cubs, even if they maintain strong interest. I wouldn’t rule anything out, though, because it’s entirely possible that no team will credibly offer Tulowitzki starting-level playing time, and he will just have to choose the team with whom he feels most comfortable to try to win a bench job in the spring.