After extended struggles at the plate, the New York Yankees need to move on from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
The Troy Tulowitzki experiment needs to end now.
The veteran shortstop has continued to struggle with the bat in spring training. Entering Saturday’s game versus the Toronto Blue Jays, the same team which paid him $38 million to go away in December, Tulowitzki is two for his last 17 with 10 strikeouts.
Those numbers are, in a word, ugly. They stink worse than Shrek’s breath in the morning. For anyone else playing for the league minimum, an assignment to the minors or an outright cut would have already happened.
Not Troy Tulowitzki, though. No, he seems to have the full support of both management and the front office.
That, Yankees fans, is a dangerous prospect. Rather, the Yankees need to jump ship on the S.S. Tulowitzki now before the lineup is a real problem later in the season.
The Yankees signed Troy Tulowitzki for two reasons. First, beloved regular shortstop Didi Gregorius needed Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and the team needed an extra infielder.
The second reason is simple: because they could. Tulowitzki hit the open market once Toronto released him, meaning he was available for peanuts. Cue the former All-Star holding an open workout for about 16 teams, and then he signed with the Yankees.
Look at it this way. Per Spotrac, the Yankees are paying $555,000 this season. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the team releases him before Opening Day. That would mean Tulowitzki would be paid less than six figures for his time. From a financial standpoint, the deal is indeed all upside.
Except, the Yankees also gave Tulowitzki a full no-trade clause. This is indeed a strange move. Why would such a thing be given to someone who is basically a substitute shortstop?
Not only that, but what if Tulowitzki proves tough to trade or won’t waive the clause? Minimal cost aside, eating money is still eating money. The Yankees haven’t even released Jacoby Ellsbury‘s albatross of a deal yet. Tulowitzki surely won’t be an exception.
A strange sense of support
And yet, despite all of his struggles, GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone support Tulowitzki. From timing to rust, each man has made multiple excuses for him.
Troy Tulowitzki is hitless in his last 12 at-bats, with nine strikeouts.
Aaron Boone: "Just a little late. That's a result of, you miss a year and a half and you face some big-time velocity. He'll get there. I'm convinced of that, timing wise, but that's what it is."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 10, 2019
Brian Cashman on Troy Tulowitzki:
"He’s just getting his sea legs under him and knocking the rust out. He is our shortstop."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 15, 2019
Look, I get it. An all-upside deal is a good thing, especially if the player involved produces. The problem is Tulowitzki isn’t producing, and the strikeouts, in particular, are a problem. It also doesn’t help Tulowitzki missed all of last season with double heel surgery. He has not played 140 games in a season since 2011. His whole career can be defined as Hall of Fame potential derailed by injuries.
Is he even needed?
The saddest part? The Yankees don’t need Troy Tulowitzki. Even after Gregorius’ surgery, the problem could have been solved by shifting Gleyber Torres to shortstop, his natural position, and putting Tyler Wade at second base.
Or what about DJ LeMahieu? Not to sound like a broken record, but he is a three-time Gold Glove second baseman. He won the NL batting title in 2016 and is known for being a great contact hitter who hits the ball to all fields.
And despite that, Boone seems to view LeMahieu as mostly a backup first baseman. He and Cashman have a solution right in front of them but are insisting Tulowitzki will be just fine.
Meanwhile, Baseball-Reference projects him to hit just .244 across 226 plate appearances.
The Walker Effect
Mind you, this isn’t me saying Troy Tulowitzki will absolutely fail and I’ll celebrate his release. The man was an absolute force at the plate and in the field when healthy. He helped lead the Colorado Rockies to the World Series his rookie year and made the team incredibly fun to watch.
The problem is if the Yankees do continue to insist on playing Tulowitzki, they could find themselves with a similar problem they had last year.
Remember Neil Walker? He was signed as a backup first baseman and super-utilityman around this time last year. Once Greg Bird went down with an injury (again), he suddenly had a chance for regular at-bats.
Well, a big home run or two aside, Walker proved to be ridiculously streaky. He hit .159 in April before batting .294 in May. He slipped to an agonizing .063 in June before running hot up to .345 in July. Followed by a .214 campaign in August and .186 in September, he finished the year with a paltry .219 average.
Meanwhile, utility infielder and clubhouse favorite Ronald Torreyes was stashed in the minors, all while his teammates in the Bronx could have used his positive energy. Instead, Walker’s potential was chosen.
The Yankees are headed down this same dangerous path with Troy Tulowitzki. LeMahieu will play all around the field a few times a week just to give Tulowitzki rest, but why leave such talent in a reserve role?
Simply put, Cashman needs to swallow his pride and accept signing Tulowitzki might have been a mistake. There is way too much on the line this year to do otherwise.
The team’s greatest rival, the Boston Red Sox, are the defending World Series champions. Major bullpen questions aside, that dangerous lineup is still very much intact. The Yankees need to put out a lineup which not only gives them the best chance to win but also keep pace with Boston.
The sad truth is Troy Tulowitzki, rusty or not, does not provide them with that. Even if he was batting a modest .250 in camp instead of a meager .217, his health raises way too many questions.
Torres will only continue to get better in 2019. LeMahieu has registered a combined 8.3 WAR the last three years.
Troy Tulowitzki only brings one thing to the table: upside. The Yankees can wait for it to manifest, but that is a fool’s venture.
As good as he looks in the field, best for the Yankees to be practical and work with more proven weapons on the roster.