Before you look at the logical aspects of trading for Troy Tulowitzki, just hold the idea in your head for a minute. The power hitting superstar shortstop raking his cleats over the shortstop dirt at Busch Stadium in April, 2014. Don’t lie to me and tell me you don’t feel the tingling sensation in your bones as we speak. It’s a compulsive aroma lurking in the mind when you put the Cards and Tulo together. He would instantly make a position left vacant and bland for the past 6 years look very formidable. The lineup would become unstoppable and the loss of Carlos Beltran’s bat wouldn’t be an issue at all. There are few times in a franchise’s history that a lot of things fall into place for you to acquire a player like Tulo(that will be what I call him because I don’t feel like spelling his name 45 times inside one article).
Let’s look at the situation. It’s impossible to break into it too far because it’s only a scheduled chat between two general managers at this point. Jeff Passan is a legit baseball reporter and his columm at Yahoo isn’t all smoke and mirrors. This report is legit and real but just a scheduled conversation without heavy armor involved. Troy Renick, writer for a Denver newspaper, tweeted in September after the Cards completed a series there that talks would occur in the offseason. This was destined to happen. The Rockies have Troy and the Cards have lots of pitching. Here, I will discuss the idea of it happening and tell you in the end if I like it or not.
Risks Involved in Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki-
*Who would the Cards have to give up to even consider landing Tulo? Before you get into the years left on his contract and his health, look at the players the Rockies would want. They are losing Todd Helton and without Troy would have a powerless team so you can imagine Matt Adams could be involved. Allen Craig and Oscar Taveras would be asked about but I can’t imagine Mozeliak dealing those commodities. The Rockies need pitching the most. You rebuild with pitching and form a championship winning team around that mold. Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Lance Lynn would be talked about. Colorado would want established talent, a few prospects and maybe even a couple position players. They would ask for the gravy and the meat in this deal. Mo knows this and will be prepared for it. The Cards have a smart GM in Mozeliak and a man who won’t easily hand over his beloved fruit. The exchange in this deal would have a heavy impact on the Cards side and that is undeniable.
*Tulo’s health. In his seven year career, Troy has played 140 games or more only 3 times. He came up in 2006, played 25 games and hit .240. In 2007, he played his most games(155) and broke out offensively. He banged in 99 runs, hit 24 home runs, stroked 177 hits and scored 104 runs. In 2008, Tulo had the injury blues spike quick. He only played 101 games. In 2009, he played 151 games and put up fantastic offensive numbers and also supplied gold glove caliber defense at shortstop. In 2010, he played 122 games but his production was remarkable. Missing 40 games, Tulo still collected 27 HR, 95 RBI, 148 hits, 89 runs scored, and had a .381 on base percentage. After another highly productive year and 143 games in 2011, Troy only played 47 games in 2012. His injuries are upper and lower body. He has had problems with his knees, shoulders and hamstring. In 2013, he played 126 games and missed the rest due to a broken rib yet put up decent numbers again. Tulo’s ability to produce when he is on the field is alluring but his injury history is the biggest threat in this proposal.
*His contract is a burden. He has 7 years and 134 million guaranteed left and any team acquiring him would assume most or all of it. Guaranteed cash is the sharpest nail in the money side and Tulo is set up for the rest of his career. His contract bumps up to 20 million in 2015 and stays that way until 2020, when it dips to 14 with a 15 million dollar option for 2021. Basically, the Cardinals will be paying this man a healthy chunk of cash to play shortstop but remember, acquiring a high profile player comes with a cost. They would have a great player under control for 7 seasons. That is a reward and hazard at the same time.
Now that we have talked about the rougher edges of the deal, let’s look at the huge dreamy positive.
*Tulo changes your lineup instantly. He brings pop and an ability to get on base to an already potent roster of hitters and softens the loss of Beltran. Matt Adams wouldn’t be asked to be a full time producer just yet and be given another year to grow into the role. Matt Holliday would welcome a close friend into the mix for run producing in Cardinal Nation. His effect on the lineup would be legitimate and I could see him hitting 2nd, 3rd or 5th in the lineup. The biggest hole in the Cardinals lineup in 2013 was the shortstop position. That would be flipped immediately if Troy comes to St. Louis. He is a game changing player with big impact possibilities. For the first time in nearly 10 years, the Cardinals would have an All Star tentpole at shortstop. An impact position would become one of the biggest strengths on the team. As noted earlier, Tulo is a plus defender and would work well with a groundball pitching staff. The biggest weakness on the team would become a huge strength. That can’t be said enough. The sweet is as equal as the bitter in this proposal. Instead of riding Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso for 162 games, the Cardinals could start Tulo at least 135 of those games. In a game full of risk and unpredictability, I will take that average over 7 seasons. Think about it. I have done plenty of it.
Sure, there are other possibilities. Please don’t take this article as me pining every single cell in my brain towards a deal for Tulo. I am basically breaking it down for you and myself as we roll along here. The Cardinals have a ton of young pitching and several teams need it. The Cleveland Indians have Asdrubal Cabrera, who carries pop in his bat, holes in his glove and costs a third of Tulo’s salary with a lot less liability in years. The Texas Rangers need pitching badly, and have established shortstop Elvis Andrus and the much talked about phenom Jurickson Profar. Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta are free agents that make up for their lack of an electrifying resume with their low liability. Mozeliak has plenty of ways to go here but will start with the exploration of Tulowitzki. According to Jim Bowden at ESPN, Mo is looking to trade a young pitcher for a young shortstop under control.
The easiest starting mark is Shelby Miller and a few others for Tulo. Something tells me the dirt will be a lot thicker if these conversations escalate. Mozeliak will have to part with a vital member of his wolfpack. Miller is top of the rotation ace material and could develop into a Max Scherzer type down the road. He isn’t a player you want to throw to the table. However, the emergence of Michael Wacha and the pipeline of pitching in the Cards farm system makes you at least push Shelby onto the border for consideration. You can’t gain huge without losing big in the major leagues. At least not in 2013. The search for a shortstop is the topic of the winter for the St. Louis Cardinals and I have a feeling there will be plenty of tweeting, article writing, and hot topic flare tossing before spring training commences.
Keep this in mind. Losing players you love for Tulo is hard but the biggest parts of this deal come down to medical histories and the endurance of the human body. Executives and scouts have said moving Tulo to third base down the line may help his longevity but that is no guarantee. Mo will have to ask himself if he wants to roll the dice on a player who has never played 156 games and has played only 101 or less twice. Tulo could change your lineup but also force you to rearrange your training room and force you to inquire scientists about upcoming medical discoveries. Is the juice worth the squeeze or does Tulo scare our business expect GM away from the table? Will Mo break his usual protective mold or open up the department store door for other GM’s to come in and shop with his eye on the prize? What is for Christmas for Cardinals fans? So many questions and elements at play here could lead to a 2,000 word article. I won’t do that today.
I end with this. The Cards have plenty of pitching depth. They will only continue to score good draft picks as the future rolls into frame, beginning with the Carlos Beltran departure compensation pick. The scouting executives under Mo are making smart moves so don’t expect his pitching surplus to weaken any time soon. The Cards have loads of pitching waiting for the bullpen and rotation. What they don’t have is a long term answer at the shortstop position. They have Ryan Jackson and Greg Garcia down on the farm and neither show more promise than Pete Kozma. They need an impact shortstop. Right now. So when names like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez pop up in talks, remember this team is grooming starters and relievers these days like Columbia grows delicious coffee beans. One way to look at is asking yourself does the cost of losing Miller stay equal or emerge greater than the risk of acquiring Tulo? Another way is asking yourself when will this kind of possibility come along again. The Cards have financial flexibility to make this deal. They can handle the risk because they draft a lot better than the Cubs. They can do this because this team has shown an ability to deal with sudden injury better than any other M.L.B. team.
Yes, if the details line up right, I am all for the Cards acquiring Troy Tulowitzki. I don’t talk crazy and don’t consume medication for it, but my words are my own. Consider them and respond. A writer can ask for nothing more.
Thanks for reading and have a great day,
Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter
Photo Credit-Sports Illustrated