It will be one of those questions that Colorado Rockies fans will ask each other often in the days and years ahead: Where were you when you heard that Troy Tulowitzki was traded?
In a move that shocked many inside and outside the Rockies clubhouse, the five-time All-Star and one of the players named as Colorado’s Franchise Four during the recent Midsummer Classic was reportedly traded along with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes and three minor league pitching prospects.
Shortly after Colorado suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night, news began circulating that the 30-year-old Tulowitzki had been traded. While nothing was still official early Tuesday morning, all reports indicated that the man simply known as Tulo in the Rocky Mountain region was heading north of the border.
There are four big questions this morning as Colorado fans and Major League Baseball observers begin to sort out the trade.
1. Is this just a shortstop swap?
Yes and no. Toronto is reportedly sending shortstop Jose Reyes and right-handed relievers Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco to the Rockies. Reyes is a 32-year-old shortstop who is a career .291 hitter with 115 homers and 602 RBIs. He’s two years older than Tulowitzki and has encountered injury problems over the years as well. This season, he’s batting .285 with four homers and 34 RBIs while Tulo is batting .300 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs.
If you look strictly at the Tulowitzki-Reyes combination, there’s no question Toronto got the better player. However, this is about more than stats. Tulo was owed $113.7 million through 2020, according to MLB.com. Reyes is owed the remainder of a $22 million salary for this year and a minimum of $48 million through 2017. It opens salary space for the Rockies to use in the offseason for what Colorado fans hope will be an upgrade in the pitching staff.
2. So who are the three pitchers Toronto is sending to the Rockies?
The 20-year-old Castro hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 3 and is the only one of the three with Major League experience. At Triple-A Buffalo, he’s 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA and has allowed 26 hits and walked 12 in 19.2 innings pitched. That’s a 1.93 WHIP. He was ranked as the eighth-best Blue Jays prospect heading into the season by one publication. He has a lot of velocity but control can be a problem.
The 20-year-old Tinoco is 2-6 with a 3.54 ERA for Class A Lansing (Mich). He’s started all 15 games this season in which he’s appeared, but reports indicate Colorado is viewing him as a guy coming out of the bullpen. In his most recent outing, he allowed six hits and one run in seven innings. He’s struck out 68 in 81.1 innings pitched.
The 22-year-old Hoffman is the “old man” of the group and underwent Tommy John surgery last year but was still the ninth overall pick by Toronto in the 2014 draft. He has recovered and is doing well in the minors, piecing together a 3-3 record and 3.21 ERA. Since being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire, he’s logged a 1.54 ERA and has only walked two batters in 11.2 innings pitched.
3. What does this mean for Tulowitzki?
Toronto is currently seven games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East and just three games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot. At 50-50, they are in the hunt for a postseason berth and added Tulowitzki to the lineup gives the Jays a big bat and defensive presence in the middle of the infield.
There are two big questions however.
First, how will Tulowitzki and his injury problems hold up on the Toronto turf? After playing the majority of his games on the Coors Field natural surface, Tulo not only heads to a different country but also to a different playing surface. For a player coming off what was career-threatening hip surgery and prone to injuries in the past, will this be a problem?
Second, what will Tulo’s mindset be after being traded to the Jays? Those of us who have covered Colorado know of his passion for the game, tireless work ethic, and desire to return to the postseason … but is he excited about the change of location to Toronto? The Jays seemed to come out of nowhere as a suitor for Tulo, who had been rumored to possibly head to the Big Apple as a part of a deal with the Yankees or Mets. Also, the Bay Area native enjoyed playing in the National League West and having several guaranteed trips back to San Francisco on the schedule. That’s now gone. Will the hunt for the 2015 postseason soothe over any potential issues with his new home? Is Toronto a team that is more of a contender for the postseason in the new future than Colorado? The Blue Jays last made the playoffs in 1993, just two years after the Rockies were founded. Colorado last reached the postseason in 2009.
4. What does this mean for the Rockies?
It’s officially time to rebuild the franchise. Don’t be surprised if Carlos Gonzalez and others are also traded before Friday’s deadline. While Reyes is a plug-in at shortstop for now (or could be a part of another trade before week’s end), the Rockies have a plethora of young talent in the farm system at shortstop, including Triple-A’s Trevor Story.
At 42-55 and in last place in the National League West, Colorado wasn’t going anywhere this season despite its solid lineup that included three All-Stars in DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Tulo. Now it’s time for the Rockies to plan for the offseason and what improvements can be made on the mound.
Also, perhaps overshadowed in all of this, is the loss of Hawkins in the bullpen. The 42-year-old right-hander has a 3.63 ERA and two saves this season, including a 1.04 ERA in July. While he has been slowed this season by a biceps injury, he’s also been one of the few bright spots in a continuously unreliable bullpen.
It’s ironic that Tulowitzki’s last home game at Coors Field was spent on the bench as an off day when the Rockies pounded the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. An infield without Tulowitzki was always viewed as an oddity in recent years. Now Rockies fans will have to get used to it as the franchise moves into the future without one of its cornerstones of the past.