Source: Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
In a move that should surprise absolutely nobody, four-time all-star Troy Tulowitzki and the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year deal worth $555,000. This comes on the heels (pun intended) of Tulowitzki's December release from the Toronto Blue Jays, who will be paying him $20 million to play for their division rivals this season.
Tulowitzki is expected to be the team's shortstop this season until Didi Gregorius returns after undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of this past season. Once Gregorius does return, it would seem that Tulowitzki will become a utility player, playing shortstop, second base and maybe even first base. However, expecting him to be your everyday shortstop is wishful thinking at best. Over the last two seasons, Tulowitzki has played a total of 66 games, while missing the entire 2018 season after undergoing surgery on both of his heels. According to reports, at the open workout he had about a month ago, he looked perfectly healthy. But, as Jays fans will be sure to tell you, you can't hold your breath when it comes to him staying healthy.
For the Yankees, this is as low risk of a move as a team can make. If Tulowitzki struggles to stay healthy, the Yankees can get rid of him for next to nothing. If he isn't as good as he once was, then the half million dollars was at least worth a shot. However, if he can return to being a solid everyday player, the Yankees just got themselves a steal. Paying the league minimum for a guy who is only a handful of years removed from being the game's top shortstop allows them to have an incredible amount of roster flexibility this season. Obviously, whether he can return to being a quality player is a big question as well. Since being traded from Colorado to Toronto in the middle of the 2015 season, he has only managed to hit .250/.313/.414 with 36 home runs and 122 RBI in 238 games. Not the best numbers, but a lot of that can be attributed to him playing through injuries and returning from injuries.
But most importantly for the Yankees, this move doesn't stop them from pursuing prized free agent Manny Machado, according to Jeff Passan. This is all that matters. If signing Tulowitzki meant they were out of the Machado sweepstakes, they wouldn't have made this move. According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees even told Machado a few days ago that they were signing Tulowitzki as a "no-risk move". You don't tell Machado that if you're no longer interested in signing him.
Now, possibly the biggest question of all is what happens with Miguel Andujar if the team does actually win the Machado sweepstakes? Before the Tulowitzki signing, things were pretty clear. If Machado signed, he would play shortstop until Gregorius returns, Andujar would stay at third base; and when Gregorius returns, you would then figure out what to do with him. However, if Machado is a Yankee, he would presumably play third, with Tulowitzki at short. So, what happens with Andujar? My initial guess is that they would try to move him to be their everyday first baseman since he was already getting some work at first in the minors before being called up. The other possibility would be trading him for pitching. Andujar is coming off of a rookie of the year calibre season -- in fact, he was the Rookie of the Year, according to a very credible and intelligent person who writes for this site -- and would be sure to fetch a top of the line starter if you packaged him with another prospect or two. Or, maybe the Yankees get creative and try to pull off a deal similar to the one that the Mariners and Mets completed earlier this off-season. The Mariners attached Edwin Diaz to a deal so that the Mets would take on Robinson Cano and his massive contract. Maybe the Yankees can attach Andujar to Jacoby Ellsbury's contract and get that off the books. Getting rid of Ellsbury's contract would give the team an extra $21 million this year, which could be used to improve the bullpen or signing a big name. Bryce Harper, anyone? Obviously, a move like that is much more complicated than it seems. First, Ellsbury would have to agree to the trade since he has a full no-trade clause. Secondly, do you really want to get a much lesser return for Andujar by adding Ellsbury's contract to the deal, thus devaluing Andujar? A lot to think about. But again, this entire paragraph will be rendered useless if Machado decides to sign elsewhere, so we'll have to wait and see.
In the end, the Yankees signing Tulowitzki can't be seen as anything but a positive. Tulowitzki grew up idolizing Derek Jeter, and for years it was speculated that the Yankees would trade for him to replace Jeter when he retired. In fact, it was reported a few years ago that in a closed-door meeting/negotiation, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Jeter to his face that he would rather have Tulowitzki than Jeter, who was 36 at the time and looking for a new contract. This is a move that has been a long time in the making, and even if it's a few years too late, it's still nice to see it finally come to fruition.
It also helps that if Tulowitzki plays well, Jays fans will be filling Olympic sized pools with their tears, which is always a plus. Hell, maybe they can fill the thousands of pools that Tulowitzki can buy with the $20 million that the Jays are paying him to not play for them this year. Just a thought.