Free-agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hasn’t played in a Major League Baseball game since July 2017, held a workout that 11 teams attended, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. In the report, Brown wrote the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants were the teams in attendance.
The Toronto Blue Jays released the 34-year-old shortstop after he sat out the 2018 season because he was recovering from surgery on bone spurs in both of his heels. The Blue Jays still owe Tulowitzki $38 million over the next two seasons, so he can be had on a league-minimum salary by another club.
Do you want to see Tulowitzki in Baltimore in 2019? If so, there are a couple questions that need to be answered before we can see him in an O’s uniform:
- How would Tulowitzki be a fit for the Orioles?
- Why would Tulowitzki sign with the Orioles instead of one of the other 10 teams that attended his workout?
Let’s start by addressing the first question, which is probably the easiest to answer of the two.
The Orioles are in the market for a middle infielder, and are likely looking for the cheap place-holder types, as opposed to the expensive, Manny Machado types. I opined on a few free-agent candidates earlier this offseason, but that was also before the Jays announced the release of the shortstop they’ve had since July 2015.
The Orioles have no up-and-coming shortstops that Tulowitzki would be blocking in any way. After the club non-tendered Tim Beckham, they’ve been looking to fill either of the middle infield positions, with Jonathan Villar taking over whichever is in the club’s best interest.
Yes, the O’s came away with Richie Martin and Drew Jackson after the Rule V Draft, but it’s possible that neither of them could be an answer as an everyday guy. Or, at least, you can’t assume that one of them will.
What a healthy Tulowitzki gives you, if the price tag is right, is a good defensive shortstop with a potentially above-average bat that can hold down shortstop either for an entire season, or just a half-season if he becomes a coveted trade target prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Now, how are the O’s a fit for Tulo?
The Orioles have an opening at shortstop, and it’s likely that Tulowitzki would like to return to being a healthy, starting shortstop in the big leagues once again.
You may think that his first priority would be to join one of the contending teams that attended his workout. That may be true, and it may be what happens, but that’s probably not his best opportunity to return to an everyday-shortstop role, if that’s what he would like.
The Yankees, Phillies, and White Sox are pursuing Machado at the moment. I don’t think a good message to any of those three fanbases would be to sign an injury-prone Tulowitzki to a cheap deal after missing out on Machado. I will be very surprised if any of the contending teams sign Tulowitzki with the plan that he will be an everyday player from the get-go. He would likely be a backup or depth option on those clubs.
So, again, why the Birds?
The Orioles have one of the more hitter-friendly ball parks in all of Major League Baseball. He can come to Baltimore, have the best opportunity to start every day and put up above-average offensive numbers once again. However, nobody is expecting him to return to his Colorado Rockies form. I think everyone is aware that those days – and, that ball park – are well behind him.
Returning as an above-average defender at shortstop everyday and an at-least league-average bat could make Tulowitzki an interesting trade-chip in July, which could place him on a World Series contender for the second-half of 2019. Or, even if he doesn’t get traded and he plays a full, healthy season in Baltimore, he could be rewarded with another contract elsewhere next offseason.
In his time in Toronto, Tulowitzki was worth 4.3 fWAR over 238 games. He recorded +16 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) at shortstop and slashed .250/.313/.414 with 36 homers.
If he can return to anything near that production in 2019, I believe he could be well-coveted by contending teams looking to acquire an infielder in July.
Tulowitzki, at a cheap price, is a good fit to plug up the hole at shortstop for the Birds in 2019. And the opportunity to showcase a healthy season in a hitter’s ball park in order to get traded to a contender midseason is a reason why Tulowitzki should see the upside to playing for a rebuilding Orioles team.