When it’s all said and done on the career of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, his status as a potential Hall of Famer will be interesting. Is the two-time gold glover, two-time silver slugger and three-time top 10 most valuable player voter a Hall of Famer?
Admittedly, I’m not here to debate that. But if you posed that question some time before 2011, you would probably get a lot of head nods.
For a time, it looked like the 2005 seventh overall pick was poised to become an all-time great Colorado Rockie, and Major League baseball star.
From 2009 to 2015, the Santa Clara native was one of the game’s premier players. A stud shortstop with a bat before that was nothing to write home about. In those seven seasons, he hit .304 with a .912 OPS, smacked 160 home runs, stole 45 bases, made five all-star teams and finished fifth in MVP voting twice, all the while averaging 4.8 wins above replacement (topping six twice).
In the season of 2015, however, he saw an unexpected change of scenery. From 2011 to 2015, the Rockies were buried in the National League West cellar. Prior to the first year in that stretch, they inked their up-and-coming superstar to a massive 10-year, $158 million contract.
With half of it remaining, and Tulowitzki battling some injury problems in 2012 and 2014, the Rockies sacrificed the player to rid themselves of the contract, and found a taker in the rising Toronto Blue Jays.
In acquiring Tulowitzki —and relief pitcher Latroy Hawkins— the Blue Jays themselves dumped a contract. This one, however, was dead money. Jose Reyes did not stick around in Colorado after being designated for assignment following the trade and a domestic abuse suspension.
The Rockies ate nearly $40 million to cut Reyes, and will thankfully be done paying him this season. However, they were hoping he could replace Tulowitzki. Even though Trevor Story has more than replaced Tulow via Reyes, the disappointing turnout of the rest of the trade has made the deal harder to swallow.
Arriving with Reyes were three right-handed pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco. Hoffman and Castro ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, in John’s 2015 Blue Jays Top 20.
The word on both Hoffman and Castro, as opposed to fellow Blue Jays farmhands like Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris (later traded for David Price), was upside. But also a low floor.
Unfortunately, the latter has claimed the two prized prospects in the trade.
Castro, who before the 2015 trade deadline blockbuster had just made his MLB debut, pitched only 20 innings for the Rockies before being unceremoniously shipped to Baltimore in April of 2017. He is currently a member of the Orioles bullpen, if not for the lack of better options.
The Orioles let him start once last season, but he has all but once been used as a reliever. He is still just 23 and won’t be 24 until December.
Before covering Hoffman, the recently-turned 23-year old Tinoco, a member of the 40-man roster, has appeared in the honorable mention section of John’s Rockies lists in each of the past three seasons.
He has made the jump to Double-A this year, more out of experimentation than having earned the call. His minor league track record is flawed, outside of a fantastic 2015, the year he was traded. That season, he posted a 2.97 ERA in 22 starts with a 105:30 K:BB ratio. That stellar campaign has unfortunately proven to be an anomaly.
Hoffman, the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, carries the last hope for this trade. Now 25, he was in the mix for the top overall selection of that draft before bowing to Tommy John surgery.
A college product, Hoffman ascended extremely quickly up the minor league system. Toronto had him in Double-A in his first full season and they were rewarded with stellar numbers. That summer, he headlined this trade.
Despite just 107 professional innings, Colorado bumped him to Triple-A to start 2016. He greeted the harsh Pacific Coast League with promise, a suitable precursor to Coors Field.
The Rockies called him up in August and he started six games, appearing in eight, and struggled. Slotting back in at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2017, he struggled and found the same tumultuous results at the big league level.
Perhaps he was rushed, or his floor was encroaching on his ceiling, but Hoffman had hit a bump in the road that he has yet to overcome. 2017 was rough and 2018 has started the same way. What he can piece back together and hopefully give the Rockies is Colorado’s best shot at salvaging this deal.
While the deal has been a bust for Colorado, they can take solace in the fact that Tulowitzki hasn’t been anywhere near the type of player he was in the National League since the blockbuster trade.
The 30-year old had been in and out of the lineup during the year, and would miss most of September for the Blue Jays. After hitting .300 in the Rockies half of 2015, he hit just .239 with the Jays.
In 2016, he turned in 131 games and hit .254, the worst mark since his rookie season. He managed 24 home runs and 79 RBI, and aided in a rout of the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, but overall turned in a regrettable year that included his most errors since 2010.
He dressed just 66 times in 2017, and bone spurs in his heels have kept him out of the 2018 season to date.
The Rockies made the deal to get younger and build for the future, but did indeed avoid getting stuck with Tulowitzki’s contract, which is now Toronto’s problem. Tulow’s deal runs through 2021.
Both sides took an “L” here, as the kids say, and I somehow turned a trade nobody won into nigh 1,000 words. Thus concludes article 100 for me at Minor League Ball.