MLB Teams with Prospects to Lure Rockies into Troy Tulowitzki Blockbuster
Imagine what would happen if the Colorado Rockies were to put Troy Tulowitzki up for sale. The chance to trade for the best shortstop and one of the very best players in all of Major League Baseball would turn 29 teams into a frenzied pack of teenage girls at a One Direction concert. Or something to that effect.
Other general managers might briefly consider offering their first-born as part of a deal for a chance to obtain a player who is still very much in his prime, plays a premium up-the-middle position and is among the most dangerous hitters in the game.
But which clubs actually could make a play for Tulowitzki based on their assets in the minor leagues?
Around Independence Day, the 29-year-old All-Star told Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post that he's open to the possibility of moving on from Colorado:
In Todd Helton, there's someone who's easy to look at his career here and how it played out. I have the utmost respect for Todd, but at the same time, I don't want to be the next in line as somebody who was here for a long time and didn't have a chance to win every single year. He played in a couple postseason games and went to one World Series. But that's not me. I want to be somewhere where there's a chance to be in the playoffs every single year.
What people need to understand about me is: Winning's my main priority. I've been around the game a little bit now, and I understand those years where we did win, how much more fun I had. And then there are years such as this.
By "this," Tulowitzki means yet another lost year in Denver. Just like in 2013, the Rockies got off to a hot start in April (16-12) only to fizzle out in May (12-14) and flatline in June (8-20) to the point where the season was over by the start of the second half.
With July off to a 4-12 start, Colorado sports the worst record in the National League at 40-59 entering play Tuesday.
As Dayn Perry of CBS Sports wrote earlier in July: "While it's hard to imagine his playing in another uniform, Tulowitzki easily becomes the star of the deadline—even a deadline that includes David Price—if the Rockies decide it's time to tear it down."
That "if" is the operative word. Because it seems like the Rockies ownership would prefer not to part with Tulowitzki, according to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
Just because there have been rumors and speculation—not to mention more or less a blessing from the player himself—Tulowitzki isn't necessarily being traded between now and the deadline at month's end. But he could be at some point in the near future like the offseason, which is something he mentioned to Thomas Harding of MLB.com:
It's about wherever I get the best chance to win. Hopefully that is in Colorado, but if they feel like they have to go in a different direction and get young and that's where the organization is headed, then they will have to sit me down to talk about that. I would talk with them in the offseason.
Fact is, while trading Tulo might seem sacrilegious in Colorado, he is driving up his value in the middle of his best season yet, but he's also going on 30 years old (in October), remains an injury risk and has a ton of money left on his contract. In other words, his stock could plummet soon enough based on age and/or ailment.
So again: Which teams might be able to pick up the phone and entice the Rockies decision-makers with a legitimate offer built around prospects and/or young big leaguers?
Well, for starters, any such team would have to be a contender (or at least, capable of contending in short order) who not only possesses the prospects but also has a need at shortstop and possibly even the funds to absorb the $118 million owed to Tulo through at least the 2020 season (after which his deal calls for a $15 million option or $4 million buyout for 2021).
For example, the New York Yankees, who will have a gaping hole at the position after Derek Jeter retires at season's end, wouldn't easily fit this endeavor because they lack the farm system to put a worthwhile package together.
Meanwhile, the small-market Pittsburgh Pirates are out of the picture considering they couldn't take on such a massive contract even if they undoubtedly could use an upgrade at shortstop, a position that has been a black hole for years.
And the Chicago Cubs, of course, have as much talent in the minors as any organization, but much of it already is in the infield (think: Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell)—not to mention the organization remains in full-on rebuild mode.
While those teams might not be logical suitors for Tulowitzki, these six could be—and they just might have the goods to get him, too.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox certainly have the prospects, both in terms of talent and depth, to land Tulowitzki should they want to go that route. For a team that hasn't had a steady shortstop since, like, Nomar Garciaparra, it might not be a bad idea.
Boston would have to shift Xander Bogaerts, who ceded short to the re-signed Stephen Drew, to third base permanently. That's not unreasonable considering many expected that to be the rookie's ultimate destination anyway. Of course, the Rockies might want Bogaerts to be a part of any return as a potential replacement for their franchise player.
If the Sox wouldn't agree to that, then they'd surely have to surrender a few of their many quality young pitchers. Constantly on the lookout for mound men, the Rockies certainly wouldn't object.
Henry Owens, a lefty tearing through Double-A with a 2.25 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings, only just turned 22 and has become the top arm in a system full of them. There are also right-handers Allen Webster (who has big league experience) and former first-round picks Anthony Ranaudo (2010) and Matt Barnes (2011) as well as first-round southpaws Brian Johnson (2012) and Trey Ball (2013).
Boston has plenty on the position player front, too. Blake Swihart, a 22-year-old first-rounder from 2011, has an OPS of .838, is throwing out 51 percent of would-be base-stealers at Double-A and would become Colorado's catcher of the near future. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts, having been pushed to the outfield because of Dustin Pedroia's presence through 2021, could fill the Rockies' never-ending parade of mediocrity at second base.
In short, there's more than enough here for the Red Sox and Rockies to mix and match.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are not as deep in prospects as the Boston Red Sox are, but they have more elite young talent at the top of their system, three youngsters chief among the crop.
There's infielder Corey Seager, the 20-year-old younger brother of the Seattle Mariners' third baseman Kyle. Because he's so big (6'4", 215 lbs), the No. 18 overall pick in 2012 is likely to wind up at the hot corner, but he has the bat for it, as his .350/.408/.632 line between High- and Double-A this year proves.
If the Rockies prefer to avoid doubling up at third base, which Nolan Arenado already has locked up, they would be thrilled to get their hands on phenom Julio Urias. In just his second pro season, the left-hander is throwing well in the hitter-friendly California League with a 3.35 ERA and 9.9 K/9. And he's doing that at the age of—get this—17 years old. No wonder Baseball America ranked Urias as the No. 13 prospect in the sport in its recent midseason update (subscription required).
The third big-time prospect is center fielder Joc Pederson, a 22-year-old who has done just about all that he can at Triple-A—he's hitting .327 with a 1.034 OPS and 19 homers and 24 steals—and is ready to make his major league debut.
From the Dodgers' point of view, they would almost definitely have to part with two of the above to get Tulowitzki. But it might be worth it for a club that has been collecting stars and going all-in for its first World Series championship since 1988.
Plus, with incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez a free-agent-to-be, Los Angeles would have its replacement. And heck, if ownership wanted to try to find the bottom of its seemingly bottomless pockets, Ramirez could be re-signed and moved to third base, where he played in 2012 with the Miami Marlins.
The biggest hindrance here? Trading Tulo already is an unpopular possibility in Denver, so imagine the reaction if he were traded within the division.
Offense remains the primary target for a Seattle Mariners team that has one of the best collections of arms around. That's what happens when the so-good-it's-hard-to-believe Felix Hernandez and the consistently, underratedly great Hisashi Iwakuma are at the top of the rotation.
The M's showed they were up for making a splash in the market for middle infielders when they inked Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract over the winter. While that has taken care of second base, shortstop still needs some help, as second-year player Brad Miller has had more than his share of struggles on both offense (.204 average) and defense (14 errors).
As already mentioned, the Rockies are always on the lookout for arms, so they could be intrigued by names like Victor Sanchez, Edwin Diaz and/or Luiz Gohara, each of whom is still at least a year away from the bigs. Seattle also has a pair of ready-made major leaguers in righty Taijuan Walker and lefty James Paxton, both of whom have pitched for the Mariners in 2013 and 2014 and could team with Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, Colorado's top two pitching prospects.
And if Seattle really wanted to go hard after Tulowitzki, then first/third baseman D.J. Peterson (22 homers, .964 OPS at High- and Double-A) or outfielder Austin Wilson—the organization's top two picks from the 2013 draft—could be included as part of a package, too.
As reluctant as the Rockies are over jettisoning Tulowitzki, the prospects they would receive here could make it worthwhile, especially for a franchise that needs to shake things up.
St. Louis Cardinals
Much of the St. Louis Cardinals' very best on the farm already has reached the major leagues. The club, however, still has prospects to spare, and if Colorado wants to target youngsters with actual big league experience, this would be the organization with which to engage.
After all, we're talking about a group of first- or second-year MLBers that includes—deep breath now—right-hander Carlos Martinez, first baseman Matt Adams, second baseman Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras, the 22-year-old outfielder who hasn't done much in his limited time this year (.190 average in 25 games) but was a consensus top-three prospect this spring.
One or more of those pieces could be supplemented by any number of promising prospects who've yet to make it to The Show in St. Louis. Among those? Stephen Piscotty, an outfielder who is triple-slashing .295/.357/.423, and Tim Cooney, a southpaw with a 3.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, are both 23, at Triple-A and nearly ready to debut.
Here's what Baseball Prospectus had to say about Piscotty, No. 30 in its midseason top-50 prospects update (subscription required):
The Stanford alum doesn't struggle against lefties, and should have no problem as an everyday fixture [at an outfield corner]. He manipulates the barrel, keeps it in the zone for a long time, and can hit to all fields. The profile is more of a doubles hitter than a true HR threat. On top of the hit tool, Piscotty has a big time arm and is solid-average on defense.
Options further away include hardthrowing righty Alex Reyes (10.8 K/9) and lefty Rob Kaminsky (1.64 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), a pair of high-upside arms in the same rotation in the Single-A Midwest League.
The big reason this match might not make as much sense is because the Cardinals just spent big to bring in a shortstop last winter, landing Jhonny Peralta for $53 million through 2017. Still, they could always shift Peralta, who has experience at third base, to the hot corner, and Matt Carpenter back to second base to free up short for Tulowitzki.
The Baltimore Orioles' farm system is middle-of-the-pack at best, which puts them behind the clubs highlighted so far. But this team's one strength comes in the form of a quartet of young starting pitchers with mid- to top-of-the-rotation potential. That would at least get the Rockies to listen.
While Kevin Gausman, the fourth overall selection in 2012, might be a requirement for Colorado, the O's might balk at putting up the 23-year-old while he's helping them now—and could become their No. 1 starter by this time next year.
Even still, that would leave 21-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, as well as Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, two especially highly regarded high school right-handers who were Baltimore's top takes in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
Bundy, 21, is pitching at High-A for now and working his way back to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Harvey, 19, has been cutting up the Single-A Sally League (2.94 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 11.0 K/9) in his first full pro season after going 22nd in 2013. Keith Law of ESPN has Bundy and Harvey back to back as his Nos. 12 and 13 prospects overall (subscription required).
The X-factor in dealing for Tulowitzki is what his presence would mean for Manny Machado, a former shortstop who moved to third base to get him up sooner. J.J. Hardy's contract is up at season's end, and it's a possibility Machado could return to short, but that plan would be scrapped if Tulo were in the picture.
Another reason this one might be a stretch? Offense hasn't been a problem for the O's in recent years, but they do need pitching. That might make them less inclined to go this route.
New York Mets
Among the batch of clubs listed here, the New York Mets are the farthest from contender status, which is why they check in with the final spot. Given the pitching depth already at the big league level heading into 2015, though, the Mets might not be too far off.
Each of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey (expected back next season after TJ surgery) are under team control through 2016 at least. Beyond that full rotation of starters, there's still prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero from the right side and Steven Matz from the left.
Syndergaard, the 6'6" 21-year-old with the upper-90s fastball who already is at Triple-A, is the must-get from the Rockies' point of view. Getting one or two other pitchers, though, would make a lot of sense given these two teams' needs.
And if Colorado wanted to spread the wealth around some by grabbing a quality position player prospect, then 23-year-old catcher Kevin Plawecki (.840 OPS across Double- and Triple-A), 21-year-old outfielder Brandon Nimmo (.393 career OBP) or 19-year-old first baseman Dominic Smith (No. 11 pick in 2013) could help put the finishing touches on a transaction.
While the Mets might balk at giving up so much young talent when they're still likely another season from legitimate playoff hopes, going from one of the 10-least productive aggregate performances at shortstop (.631 OPS) to Tulowitzki would move that timeline up.
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