Persistence helped Jays land Tulowitzki; is pitching next?

BY Ken Rosenthal • July 28, 2015

When Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired Josh Donaldson last offseason, it was because he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Same thing with Troy Tulowitzki.

Just as Anthopoulos wore down Athletics GM Billy Beane, he wore down Rockies counterpart Jeff Bridich, according to major-league sources with knowledge of the talks.

Anthopoulos first asked the Rockies about Tulowitzki during the winter, but the Rockies would not take back shortstop Jose Reyes as part of the return.

So, Anthopoulos tried again in May. No change. Then again in July. Some movement. At the All-Star break, more movement.

And then, late Monday night, bingo.

The key to the trade, from the Rockies’ perspective, is right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who was the Blue Jays’ first-round pick in 2014 despite having undergone Tommy John surgery a month before the draft.

The Rockies, along with Reyes and Hoffman, also acquired right-handers Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco in exchange for Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins, the teams confirmed Tuesday morning.

The obvious question, for most fans, will be the Blue Jays’ decision to improve what already is by far the game’s No. 1 offense rather than address their pitching, which ranks 23rd.

Well, the Jays still intend to add starting pitching, sources say. What’s more, Tulowitzki’s defense at shortstop will be a dramatic improvement over Reyes’, further bolstering the team’s run prevention.

Remember when the Red Sox acquired shortstop Orlando Cabrera and parted with Nomar Garciaparra in a four-team blockbuster on July 31, 2004?

Same idea here.

The addition of Cabrera helped the Sox end the “Curse of the Bambino.” It remains to be seen whether Tulo will help lead the Jays to their first postseason appearance since 1993. But even if he does not, Toronto is well-positioned for the future.

The Jays occasionally face payroll limitations despite being owned by the Rogers Corporation, an immensely profitable media company. The salaries of Tulowitzki and Reyes, however, are a wash for 2015 – both will earn $22 million total when factoring in the $2 million assignment bonus that Tulo will receive for getting traded.

Subtract Reyes’ remaining $48 million commitment after this season from Tulo’s remaining $98 million obligation, and the Jays are looking at Tulo for $50 million over five years – less than what he would receive if he became a free agent this winter.

Of course, the trade also cost the Jays three minor-league pitchers – “three great arms,” in the view of one scout who tracks the Jays’ system. But while Hoffman is a potential ace, the Jays projected Castro as a reliever and Tinoco as a back-end starter.

Now consider:

Tulowitzki is under control for five more seasons, along with two of the Jays’ other up-the-middle players, second baseman Devon Travis and center fielder Kevin Pillar. Catcher Russell Martin is under control for four more seasons, Donaldson for three.

Might the Jays now trade right fielder Jose Bautista or first baseman Edwin Encarnacion for pitching? It’s possible. Toronto also could keep the two sluggers and try to sign them to extensions; both are eligible for free agency after next season. The amazing thing is, the way the Jays are set up now, they can build a middle of the order even if both players depart.

The last remaining question, of course, is Tulo’s reaction to all this. Rockies owner Dick Monfort had told the shortstop that he would not be traded without the team consulting him and would not be traded to a place that he did not want to go, sources say.

Toronto almost certainly was not Tulo’s preferred destination, but his situation bears parallels to that of lefty Mark Buehrle, who was furious with the Marlins for trading him to the Jays in November 2012 less than one year after he signed a four-year, $54 million contract with Miami.

Buehrle’s anger was with the Marlins’ ownership, and he eventually came to enjoy Toronto. Tulowitzki surely is upset with Rockies’ ownership, but the Jays expect him to get over it now that he again will play for a contender, sources say.

The artificial turf at Rogers Centre is another concern for the oft-injured Tulo, but generally the surface is more of an issue for players with back trouble. Tulo underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip last August, but had played in 87 of the Rockies’ 97 first games. He was batting .300 with an .818 OPS, with similar splits at Coors Field and on the road.

One rival executive loved this deal for Toronto, simply because of the upgrade from Reyes to Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays are better, and they’re going to get better still. As his peers will attest, Anthopoulos won’t stop.

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