Let’s get one thing straight: Troy Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in baseball. He is a cut above the rest offensively and defensively. Last season, he was one of only three players to win both the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger. The other two were Albert Pujols and our very own Carlos Gonzalez – elite company. He has put together some of the best offensive seasons ever for an NL shortstop. Tulo has become a beloved figure in Denver and rightfully so. He is a solid guy on and off the field and his desire to remain a Rockie his entire career is admirable. He will only gain fans from this move. There are so many reasons to love Tulo, but honestly this deal scares the hell out of me.
There is little precedent when it comes to ten year contracts — A-Rod’s 10 year, $252M deal with the Rangers in 2000 and Jeter’s 10 year, $189M agreement with the Yankees in 2001. A-Rod’s deal was for much more money than Tulo’s and it crippled the Rangers for most of the past decade. For four years, they were forced to pay A-Rod while he played for the Yankees, and if Rodriguez had not opted out after his seventh season, the Rangers would just now be free of the Yankees third baseman. Jeter’s deal with the Yankees was more comparable to Tulo’s, but the Yankees are a different animal than the Rockies. Because of their enormous financial edge, New York takes on less risk when committing that much time and money to a player.
For this contract to work out well for the Rockies, Tulo must maintain longevity and elite production. Troy’s production doesn’t concern me, but the length of the commitment does. If Tulo stays healthy, his production makes this deal a bargain for the Rockies. However, he missed forty games last season and sixty games in 2008. Jeter has missed over twenty games only once in his career and he was twenty-nine by the time that happened. Rodriguez has missed some time in recent years, but in his first twelve seasons he only twice missed over twenty games in a season. Plus, neither A-Rod nor Jeter has ever missed as many as fifty games in one year. Through his first four seasons, Troy has not shown that he can sustain that same level of durability.
In any sport, oft-injured players tend to experience a wane in productivity. Durable players are not only on the field, but are also performing at or near their peak capabilities. To this point, we have not seen this with Tulo. He is certainly an elite performer, but injuries may prevent consistency and durability.
In making this deal, the mindset of Dan O’Dowd and the Monforts is commendable. Unfortunately, it is also naive and way too impulsive. The Rockies should have waited another season before making this move. They have already once made a commitment to Tulo and that deal still had three years left on it. By all accounts, no one was demanding that this happen right away. What is the harm in waiting to see if Troy can do it in back to back years?
When discussing the deal, both sides have used the word “trust” often and clearly they see this as a marriage. For Tulowitzki this is a great thing, but it isn’t for the Rockies. Mid-market franchises like the Rockies should not make marriage-like commitments. In sickness and in health does not carry the same meaning when applied to professional athletes. There are situations that call for a calculated approach by management. The emotion needs to be left to the fans. Not to say that they should alienate players, but the Rockies organization needs to protect itself.
I like the idea of Troy playing his entire career in Denver and maybe this deal will be a true bargain for the Rockies. I hope my concerns are flat out wrong, but this contract does worry me. The worst case scenario is a nightmare for Colorado. Let’s just hope that he averages at least 150 games a season for the next decade. And again, congrats to Tulo! He’d be out of his mind not to take a deal like this.