Oft-injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki announced yesterday that he is not going to demand a trade from the moribund Colorado Rockies. Eventually, though, even without a mandate the Rockies may simply have to bite the bullet and find out what one of the best players in their franchise's history is worth.
The Rockies aren't this bad, obviously. No one is as bad as their worst moments, and it's hard to think of a worse moment than at the end of an 11 game losing streak. They are, however, profoundly weird. As of Thursday night, they led the National League in batting average and were second in slugging, but 13th in runs scored.
That hardly makes sense, given that they have been hitting well with runners on and their OBP was 10th. I mean, they've seemingly gotten profoundly unlucky at the plate.
On the mound, however, they have truly earned their awfulness. The Rockies have the worst ERA in the National League. They've done this on the backs of being dead last in strikeouts and 13th in walks through the first 31 games of 2015. There just isn't anything positive to say about a club that started Kyle Kendricks (7.65 ERA) on Opening Day.
So even while the Rockies are bound to improve somewhat, they don't have the pieces to be competitive this year. With Tulowitzki making noises like he might want to leave, indeed, it absolutely makes sense to try and unload him and as much of the $118 million he is still owed as possible. After all, the Mets and the Yankees are both in desperate need of an upgrade at shortstop.
The one question everybody needs to answer
The trouble with Troy Tulowitzki is the same as it's always been, however: How much can you count on him being able to play? When he is on the field, Tulowitzki is probably the best shortstop in baseball. He is a dynamic force at the plate and is still an asset on defense at 30 years old. For his career, he has been worth more than six wins above replacement per 162 games, according to Baseball Reference.
The trouble, of course, is keeping him healthy. In eight full seasons, Tulowitzki has played more than 130 games just three times, and he hasn't played more than 126 games in a season since 2011. Thumb problems, groin, hamstring, broken ribs, hip surgery, and a broken wrist. His body is like the game board from Operation. Every part of him has had some kind of weird loose body taken out of it with tweezers at one point or another. He just is profoundly brittle.
And while his knack for getting injured hasn't hurt him so far in terms of production when he is on the field, it's presumably only a matter of time before these injuries sap him of his quick bat and defensive range. Even more alarming is that Tulowitzki has had all of these problems in his 20s.
As a man in his mid-30s, I assure you that these problems do not magically disappear as you age. In fact, they get more frequent, more painful, and bouncing back from them is harder. Plus, the danger for one injury to cascade into another escalates.
Too good to give away, yet...
All of which is to say that I have no idea if the Mets or the Yankees or the Mariners, or any other team looking for a long-term solution at shortstop should even want Tulowitzki. Oh sure, they'll want his production when he's healthy, but how long will that last? Will he even be healthy enough to play effectively down the stretch and into the playoffs? Perhaps not. He certainly won't be healthy over the length of the six years for which he's under contract. I mean, this isn't some short-term rental.
Whoever acquires the Rockies star is going to assume much of the burden for the remainder of his contract, and all of the headache for figuring out how to keep him on the field and what to do with him once he can't play there anymore. At once, Troy Tulowitzki is too good to give away and too unreliable to pay a lot for. And therein lies the dilemma.