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Blue Jays release Troy Tulowitzki

Toronto still owes Tulowitzki $38 million.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Workouts Photo by Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays made perhaps the most shocking move of the 2018 Winter Meetings to date, announcing on Tuesday afternoon that they’ve released shortstop Troy Tulowitzki:

The 34-year-old Tulowitzki didn’t play at all in 2018 due to bone spurs in his right heel, and he was limited to a mediocre .249/.300/.378 slash line over 66 games as he dealt with ankle and hamstring injuries in 2017. But the Blue Jays owe him $20 million in 2019, $14 million in 2020, and either a $4 million buyout or his $15 million club option for 2021, so it’s surprising that they’re not making more of an effort to ride it out with the five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glove winner. The longtime Colorado Rockies shortstop was a major deadline addition for the 2015 Blue Jays that ended up going to Game 6 of the ALCS before being eliminated by the Royals, and he was again effective for the 2016 Toronto club that went to the ALCS for a second straight year, most notably when he posted a 1.308 OPS during the division series against the Rangers. Unfortunately, injuries ended up taking their course again, as they often have for Tulowitzki, who was once regarded as one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball but has played in 130 or more games just four times in his 11 full major-league seasons.

Unless the Blue Jays are planning on selecting multiple players in this week’s Rule 5 Draft, the timing of this move is curious for Toronto, which now has 38 players on its 40-man roster. It’s possible that Tulowitzki simply is never going to play again due to his injuries, or that it’d just be inhumane to ask him to play shortstop on the turf at Rogers Centre, but regardless, this is an odd time of the offseason at which to make that determination.

The Blue Jays have already traded Aledmys Diaz, who was their primary shortstop in 2018, to the Astros. But rookies Richard Urena and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. saw the majority of the action at shortstop for the Jays over the final month of the season, so barring another move, those two will be the favorites to hold down the position until 20-year-old Bo Bichette — the Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect, the No. 11 overall prospect in baseball, and the No. 4 overall shortstop prospect according to MLB Pipeline — arrives in the majors. He played the entire 2018 season at Double-A and posted a .796 OPS, so one will assume he’ll need some further seasoning in Triple-A before he’s truly major-league ready.