Our brief campaign didn’t work. As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has agreed to a one-year, league-minimum deal with the Yankees. It’s still pending a physical, which is no sure thing given his injury history, but looks like he’s off the market.
Having missed his entire age-33 season while recovering from heel surgery, Tulo was released by the Blue Jays at last month’s Winter Meetings. Doing so left them on the hook for the $38 million still remaining on his contract. His tenure with the Jays can only be viewed as a disappointment, slashing a modest .250/.313/.414 in 238 games since arriving in 2015’s blockbuster deadline trade.
That being said, his appeal was obvious. Tulo used to be the National League’s best shortstop, earning All-Star selections during five of his final six Rockies seasons. The circumstances of his release meant that his new team would only owe MLB’s $555,000 minimum for 2019. Passan hears that scouts who attended his private workout were impressed by his mobility, suggesting the veteran could still handle defensive responsibilities at a premium up-the-middle position, justifying a roster spot even if the bat continues to underwhelm.
By all indications, the Marlins were never “in” on Tulowitzki. With money being irrelevant in this case, maybe he turned his focus to win-now opportunities.
Still, they had one unique factor working in their favor: Derek Jeter.
Aside from his initial MLB call-up in 2006, Tulo has always worn uniform No. 2 in homage to Jeter. He has spoken glowingly about the Marlins CEO as a positive influence on and off the field.
Of course, that idolatry dates back to Jeter’s playing days...as a Yankee. Given the freedom of choosing his next employer, Tulowitzki wanted to follow in the legend’s footsteps, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets, rather than collect checks from him.
Tulo is said to have looked very good at workout. He always wanted to be a Yankee, and tried to get there years before. Deal gives NYY another possible SS option, and also can’t hurt their leverage with Manny Machado, who also is believed to prefer Yanks, all things being equal.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 2, 2019
Anyway, the Fish still haven’t inked a single major league free agent this offseason. Expect them to look closely at other buy-low candidates with strong track records to reinforce the pitching staff or corner infield/outfield spots.
Opening Day is 85 days away.