By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (July 28) — Good morning, Blue Jays fans.
While you slept, the club added to its bulky stable of run–producing bats, acquiring shortstop and five–time all–star Troy Tulowitzki, 30, and soon–to–retire pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, 42, from the Colorado Rockies for fellow shortstop Jose Reyes, 32, minor–league pitcher Miguel Castro, 20 (he started the season with the Blue Jays) and top pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman, 22, Toronto’s first–round pick in the 2014 draft.
It’s a gamble, but the Jays are going for it. Now.
Much like the Toronto Maple Leafs trading Phil Kessel — but for many different reasons — the swapping of Reyes is addition by subtraction.
Though a wonderful presence in the clubhouse and a more–than–adequate lead–off bat, Reyes has declined noticeably as a defensive player. Tulowitzki will more than compensate for Reyes’s bat, providing he can stay healthy. In the midst of a gargantuan 10–year, US$157.75 million contract, Tulowitzki will remain in Toronto’s control for the next five seasons — Blue Jays, according to Hall–of–Fame writer Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, on the hook for $20 million in each of the next four years after this; $14 million in 2020, then a $15 million club option (and $4 million buyout) in 2021. Tulowitzki suffered a left–quad injury in a game at San Francisco in 2008 and a torn labrum–muscle in his left hip on July 19 a year ago. He missed the remainder of the schedule.
THE BLUE JAYS HAVE ADDED ANOTHER BIG BAT IN TROY TULOWITZKI OF COLORADO.
Whenever healthy, however, he’ll provide the Blue Jays another loud bat.
Tulowitzki is hitting .305 this season with 12 home runs and 52 RBI. He had 21 HR and 52 RBI after the All–Star break last summer when his season ended. In 2013, it was 25 HR and 82 RBI. His best year of production was in 2011, when he slugged 30 homers and a career–best 105 RBI. So, this guy can launch the ball and convert base–runners.
With Josh Donaldson and Tulowitzki, the Jays have the most potent left side of the infield in the Majors. Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion form a peerless top of the batting order.
The loss of Castro, even if he develops into a good Major Leaguer, is comparative peanuts. Far more ominous, in my view, would have been another deal, first reported by Shi Dividi of Sportsnet on the weekend — young pitchers Daniel Norris, Hoffman and outfielder Dalton Pompey to Cleveland for right–handed starter Carlos Carrasco. This one, apparently, died close to the finish–line but it proves that Anthopoulos will likely empty what remains in the prospect–well before Friday’s non–waiver trade deadline for a shot to go deep into the playoffs this autumn.
Carrasco is 10–8 for the Indians this year with a 4.28 ERA.
The acquisition of Tulowitzki also shows that Rogers Communications — owner of the Blue Jays — is not concerned about taking on salary. At the moment, anyway. With most big companies, however, the bottom line evens out. That could happen quickly if the Jays miss the playoffs or do not advance beyond the Wild Card and/or the League Division Series.
Anthopoulos clearly has the green light to add an established, front–line starter before Friday. In fact, it would be illogical to make the Tulowitzki trade without acquiring such a commodity. Either of David Price (Detroit) or Jeff Samardzija (Chicago White Sox) would fit the bill, though both can become free agents after the current season. It may necessitate trading one of Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez. With Hoffman already gone, anything less than an appearance in the American League Championship Series would likely be considered a failure by Rogers.
LaTroy Hawkins has been in the Majors for 21 years since breaking in with Minnesota in 1995. He saved 23 games for Colorado last season. This year, he has two saves and a decent 3.63 ERA.
Stay tuned, Blue Jays fans. There is surely more to come.
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