Late on New Years day, the Yankees signed former star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a 1 year Major League contract worth the league minimum (Approx 550k). The 34 year old Tulowitzki was just recently cut loose by his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays while he still had 2 years $34 million remaining plus a $4 million dollar buyout for his 2021 option. All in all, the Jays cut Tulowitzki loose for a whopping $38 million dollars. The 34 year old shortstop has always had significant issues staying healthy throughout his career, and that trend continued after being traded from the Rockies to the Jays. Tulowitzki has played only 66 games over the prior 2 seasons, while missing all of the 2018 season with heel surgery on both of his heels. Even when he did play in 66 games in 2017, he only hit .249 with 7 Home Runs and 26 runs driven in. To hammer home the point, Tulowitzki has only managed to play 131 games in a season 1 time since the 2012 season. It is obvious Tulowitzki is no longer an everyday type player. Throughout his career he has been a well above average hitter as he has a lifetime batting average of .290 and 224 career home runs.
What does this signing mean for the Yankees though? It is clear that the Yankees are still involved in trying to sign star free agent Manny Machado, and if they do indeed sign Machado, they have an enviable position. You would have Miguel Andujar playing 3rd to start the season, Manny Machado at short, Gleyber Torres at 2nd, Greg Bird/Luke Voit at 1st, and Tulowitzki would presumably be a backup infielder at short and possibly 2nd. Once Didi Gregorious returns, Miguel Andujar’s time as a Yankee would most likely come to an end with him being traded to another team for pieces at the trade deadline. It is important to note that Didi is a free agent after next season, but all indicators lead people to believe that the Yankees want to retain him after next season, which would mean Didi is the shortstop and Machado is the 3rd baseman long term.
If the Yankees do not manage to sign Machado, it would be dangerous entrusting Tulowitzki to hold the fort at shortstop until Didi comes back simply because of his extensive injury history. If Troy were to go down due to an injury, Torres would have to shift over to play shortstop and Tyler Wade would most likely get the 2nd base job. Tyler Wade simply put cant hit at the MLB level, and for a team that has their eyes set on winning the American League East, Tulowitzki carries too much baggage to entrust him with the starting shortstop gig. It is conceivable that if playing time is rationed wisely to Tulowitzki, he could have a solid impact on the club without wearing down. If the Yankees do not get Machado it would be wise not to give out a multi year deal to any other infielder on the open market such as Marwin Gonzalez. Any multi year commitment to an infielder would surely mean the end of Miguel Andujar’s days as a Yankee. The Yankees in this scenario would be wise to bring back a glove first shortstop on a 1 year deal to further bridge the gap to when Didi returns. Former Yankee Adeiny Hechavarria would be a solid option to bring back to shore up the defense in this scenario. A combo of Hechavarria and Tulowitzki at short in theory should suffice until Didi is healthy, and it allows Andujar to develop as the Yankees everyday 3rd baseman of the future.
Ultimately the role that Tulowitzki plays on the 2019 Yankees is dependent on whether or not the Yankees sign Machado. If they do sign Machado, expect Tulowitzki to see backup playing time. If they don’t sign Machado, expect to see Tulowitzki getting decent playing time until Didi returns. And in the worst case scenario, Tulowitzki shows up to spring training only to find that his playing abilities have diminished to a point where he is longer a viable MLB player. In that scenario, the Yankees simply cut their losses which would be minimal. The Tulowitzki signing is an extremely low risk one (assuming they don’t give him full starting time) that can potentially provide solid upside if they can keep him healthy. Overall, the Yankees added good depth at little to no cost, but now the question remains… Who signs Manny Machado?
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