The Yankees inked former All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year major league pact late Tuesday evening, marking the first free agent signing of 2019 for the club. The agreement, as first reported by Jeff Passan, is for the league minimum of $550,000. When it is all said and done, Tulowitzki will still take home around $38 million over the next two seasons from his prior guaranteed contract that he was released from in December by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees just got an exceptional talent on the ultimate low risk, high reward scenario. Sure, the California native missed the entire 2018 season due to surgery to remove bone spurs on both heels, but the upside is just too significant to ignore and pass on. When healthy, Tulo isn’t just your average everyday player. He provides elite defense at shortstop and is a top to middle of the order type of bat.
Folks in the baseball industry are all raving about the potential ‘steal’ of the offseason. Former Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd said, “When Troy gets an edge to him because he has something to prove, his defined focus goes to another level. And he knows now he is fighting for his career. It is a good place for the Yankees to have him.” O’Dowd continued to say, “He loved playing in New York. This was not a guy who was scared to come. He would tell you, ‘I’m going there and going off.’ He is not going to be afraid.”
His former manager echoed the same sentiments as per Joel Sherman as John Gibbons said, “It is as good a move as you can make. You have almost nothing to lose, and if he stays healthy, you have one of the best shortstops of all time.”
Opening Day starter?
With Didi Gregorius out for a good chunk of the of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this offseason, New York is in need of a starting shortstop. It appears they have found his replacement and that should be great news for Yankee fans.
O’Dowd said, “Because his defense is elite. I’m not concerned about the layoff. There is no doubt he is healthy right now. It is about if that is sustainable. Once he works off the rust, he is a two- or three-WAR player and if it clicks you could see a four-WAR season from him.”
The 34-year old looks to return to his All-Star form and to still be an everyday regular. He will get that opportunity in the Bronx, at least to begin the season. To further excite fans, all reports from scouts that witnessed Tulo’s workout last month say he looks healthy, athletic, and mobile.
Is Machado still in the fold?
Not to worry, the Yankees are still going after Manny Machado as nothing has changed on this front. According to ESPN sources, New York is still the favorite to land the All-Star infielder.
The plan seems to been all along to have Manny play third base. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Yankees even personally reached out to Machado’s camp to inform the former Baltimore Oriole that Tulowitzki was going to be signed “days ago” and that “they didn’t want to send the wrong message.”
Improving upon last season’s defense has been a major area of concern to New York this offseason, and by signing Tulowitzki and Machado that boxed can be checked. After all, signing Machado has peaked the Yankees interest the beginning of the offseason. However, the club doesn’t seem willing to be the highest bidder. It has stayed status quo from the start of free agency until now.
Andujar on the move?
Miguel Andujar may be the biggest name hurt by the Tulowitzki signing. Yes, Tulo is a shortstop, but the aforementioned Machado (should he sign) would play third base. While Andujar was potent offensively, batting .297 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI last year, his defense ranked among the worst among all qualifying third basemen.
If the Yankees are serious about upgrading their defense and signing Machado, Andujar will be forced to switch positions or be shipped out of town. The San Diego Padres have been long rumored to have interest in the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up. The Padres have a deep farm system and could easily swing a deal with New York if they so truly desired.
Sayonara, Mr. Walker?
The Tulowitzki signing all but officially spells the end of Neil Walker’s tenure with the Yankees. There was a very little chance the utility infielder would re-join the club, to begin with, but now there is no room for the 33-year old.
In 347 at-bats in 2017, Walker slashed .219/.309/.354 in a disappointing campaign with New York.