#2: Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jose Reyes, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco
Someone could probably write an entire book one day about the relationship between Tulowitzki and the Rockies.
The man known as “Tulo” was the seventh overall pick in the loaded 2005 draft class, and after a brief call-up in 2006, he arrived in full force the next year. In 609 at-bats, Tulowitzki hit .291 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI. He also established himself as an elite defensive player, leading all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, putouts, and a number of defensive sabermetric stats.
His incredible rookie season was also the year “Rocktober” was born. The Rockies, thanks in no small part to their shortstop, went on an incredible hot streak, winning 21 of 22 games to reach the World Series. They were quickly dispatched by the Boston Red Sox, but the future looked bright for Tulowitzki and Colorado.
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In 2008, things didn’t go as smoothly. Tulowitzki started the year in a slump. On April 29th, he was scheduled to get a day off, but an injury in pregame warm-ups forced Tulo into the lineup. He didn’t make out of the first inning before he tore a tendon in his left quadriceps. He returned near the end of June, only to go back on the DL again a few weeks later after slicing his hand slamming a bat.
All told, Tulowitzki would only appear in just 101 games in 2008. He would return stronger than ever in 2009, but injuries would become a recurring theme with Tulowitzki. In 2010, an errant fastball fractured his wrist. In 2012, he played in just 47 games before having season-ending groin surgery. A year later, it was a fractured rib. The year after that, it was his hip.
By the end of 2014, Tulowitzki had been named an All-Star four times and won a pair of Gold Gloves. He had also missed an average of 50 games per season after his breakout rookie campaign.
Halfway through 2015, the Rockies were in a tough spot. The team was going nowhere in the standings. Tulowitzki was having a good year by most standards, but his numbers were unquestionably down. He was healthy at the moment, but Colorado was understandably concerned; it had been over half a decade since the last season Tulowitzki didn’t spend time on the DL.
Still, it came as a shock to everyone when the Rockies and Blue Jays reached a deal to send Tulowitzki north of the border, especially when they heard what Colorado received in return … an older, just an injury-prone shortstop in Reyes, two inexperienced but talented young arms in Hoffman and Castro, and a fringe prospect in Tinoco.
The acquisition of Reyes is difficult to explain. The common belief at the time was that Colorado planned on flipping him to a third team for more young players, but it’s hard to understand why the Rockies thought someone would give up something valuable for Reyes, a wildly overpaid 32-year-old years removed from his last truly good season. Any chance that the Rockies had of getting something useful from Reyes was torpedoed by an offseason domestic violence charge.
Hoffman and Castro, the main prizes in the trade, have shown some promising signs thus far. Hoffman struggled at times against big league hitters last year, but has the talent and the opportunity to earn a rotation spot. Castro, like Hoffman, was hit hard in limited MLB time in 2016, but he just turned 22 last December and can throw near 100 MPH.
But for Toronto, the upgrade from Reyes to Tulowitzki hasn’t been as dramatic as they would have hoped so far. In 172 games since becoming a Blue Jay, Tulowitzki has actually been slightly below average offensively, slashing .250/.318/.443.
Tulowitzki is now 32 years old, and while that doesn’t make him washed up, it’s hard not to notice that he hasn’t had an elite offensive season since his twenties ended.
Timing is vital for good trades; trade a player too soon, and you risk seeing him spend his best years elsewhere. Wait too long, and you could end up settling for a much smaller return. Knowing what to trade a player for is important, but knowing when to trade is perhaps equally valuable.
You can question whether the Rockies got enough in return for Tulowitzki. But more than a year and a half later, it’s looking increasingly likely that they pulled the trigger on the deal at the right time.