Is there such a thing as a perfect signing in professional sports? I mean in all seriousness has that ever actually happened before? I mean no matter the athlete or the team there’s always some ups & downs to take into account and that’s calculated as risk/reward heading into those negotiations. As a franchise you could be brokering a bargain deal with the best player in your sport, and despite massive theoretical success they don’t live up to the paycheck or even worse, they get injured and don’t play at all. As an athlete you could get that insane contract you always dreamed of sweetened even more by no-trade clauses or position guarantees, but end up wasting the prime of your career playing for the worst team in the sport.
The New York Yankees may have just struck gold in the form of Troy Tulowitzki however, and here’s why:
- League Minimum: The most exciting part of this deal for the Yankees has got to be the fact that Tulowitzki’s new deal is a minuscule (by sports standards) $555K. That’s it…not even a million dollars to add a 5-Time All-Star to your roster. And under baseball’s CBA (collective bargaining agreement) a player signed under the league-minimum can be released prior to the start of the regular season without salary/luxury tax implications (a great fail-safe).
- Toronto’s Paying: What’s better than paying your new player next-to-nothing for their work? Knowing a divisional rival is shouldering $19.5 Million this year to make it all possible. That’s right, the reason Tulo is available and so inexpensive for the Yanks, is that the Toronto Blue Jays are forced to pay their former shortstop the remainder of his guaranteed salary after they released him earlier this offseason. Sure Toronto is in a rebuilding state at the moment, but should they become a shocking fringe contender because their young-guns come alive early, there’ll be nearly twenty-million reasons for them to not spend big at the deadline.
- No Risk: I’ve heard of low-risk deals before but this one comes at absolutely no risk at all to the Yankees. Should Tulowitzki succumb to injury yet again (a plague of his 10 year career) or under-perform or simply be outclassed by other talent on the roster, they can waive him in Spring Training or just option him to the minors if already into the season and face no financial repercussions.
- High-Reward: Did I mention the 5-Time All-Star thing? Tulowitzki for a stretch was widely considered to be the best shortstop in baseball post-Jeter (oh we’ll get to that). Now to just assume that healthy Tulo will immediately return to the form that netted him three consecutive Top-10 MVP voting finishes from ’09-’11, would be a bold move. But he’s a very good defensive infielder (2 Gold Gloves) and can still pack a punch at the plate especially considering the dimensions of his new home ballpark. He could prove to be a legitimate force in an already stacked Yankee lineup if given the chance to start for a full season. If he’s relegated to bench duties after Didi returns, then he’d quickly emerge as one of the premier backup infielders in baseball.
- No Manny, No Problem?: It is now fairly widely speculated that in the coming days the 26-Year Old will indeed announce his intentions to sign with the Yankees. But should he opt to instead go to Philadelphia or Chicago, a Tulo resurgence could prove to be just the spark the Yankees need to elevate their offense from an already historically-great 2018. Tulo could start the season at shortstop in place of the recovering Gregorious and upon his return, split time around the infield opening up DH opportunities as an alternative to rest and getting Miguel Andujar’s poor glove work off the field.
But how about Troy Tulowitzki? You might ask…
Well Tulo comes out of this in just as great a position as the Yankees do. After all you can’t call it a perfect signing if only one party is benefiting. I’m glad you asked, because here’s how he benefits:
- Paid In Full: Ranking high among the question marks surrounding this signing on Tulo’s side has to be the money. How on earth can a former superstar, injury-prone or not, be willing to accept such an abysmal contract offer. Well that’s pretty simple…he’s already getting paid. Remember that $19.5 Million I mentioned before? Sure the Yanks are benefiting from it (mostly in a “better you than me” kinda way) but Tulo is the one who actually gets to cash that eight figure check this year. He doesn’t have to worry about getting a big pay day for 2019, because he already got one when he inked that contract extension back in 2015 (while still with the Rockies). And for anyone who might be wondering, because of the buyout…Tulo is set to make an additional $14 Million next season from the Blue Jays, and $4 Million in each of the two seasons that follow. Bottom line is, he’s set financially for a while and can purse other areas of importance like…
- Being Derek Jeter: Once upon a time every little boy who laced up their cleats and trotted out to shortstop for their little league team had dreams of being Derek Jeter. Some of us became floundering sports journalists, while others became actual Major Leaguers and got to stand on the same field as the Captain. Tulowitzki made quite the name for himself as a burgeoning superstar manning baseball’s sixth position, while paying homage to his idol by also dawning the number 2 (speaking of which he’ll have to change that now I suppose). In the wake of Jeter’s retirement perhaps no man has coveted the opportunity to step into his role as Tulo. Every kid who idolized Jeter, dreamed of him one day passing the mantle of Yankees shortstop to them…it just so happens that a man named Troy is about to finally get his crack at it.
- All About 2020: Something I believe very few people have analyzed thoroughly with this signing so far is the simple fact that this contract is for one-year only. This isn’t a multiyear minimum paycheck that Tulo has strapped himself in for, but rather a single 162 game campaign. That means he has the chance to pad his stats in the little-league dimensions of Yankee Stadium with the most threatening lineup in baseball history as his backup. That means more quality pitches to hit while playing half your home games in a ball park built for hitters to thrive. If there was a more financially lucrative deal on the table, I can almost guarantee that it didn’t include the promise of great offensive numbers if you just sort of show up. This means he could forgo a paycheck in 2019 for a shot to earn an exponentially greater one in the years to follow with a great year at the plate.
- Crowded Infield: This might sound a tad bit strange, but for the newest Yankee, less will likely mean more. The Bombers boast a wealth of depth at nearly every position on the field heading into 2019. In the event that Tulo doesn’t make the Opening Day roster and gets cut, better it be because he couldn’t win a job from the likes of Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Didi Gregorious, Tyler Wade, or Manny Machado than it be because he lost a job. That means another team will take a long look at signing him for another league minimum, thus keeping his options open. If he does make the team, the crowd means that there’s a less likely chance for him to get hurt while playing a fraction of as many games as he would as a starter elsewhere. At this juncture, he’ll do himself a greater justice if he can produce quality in limited appearances and head into next winter being able to boast a complete season of health (something he has long struggled to achieve).
- A Yankee Forever: That’s more than just a catchy way to boast the Yankee legacy that’ll frequently invites back one-off players for Old Timers Day appearances. It’s also about the fact that the Yanks infield is something of a hot button issue in baseball beyond the early months of the season. Aside from the obvious will-he/won’t-he that is Manny Machado’s decision, New York has to look ahead to questions of Torres and Andujar’s progression, as well as what kind of player Didi might be upon his return from injury. The latter two have both been the subject of trade discussions rolling in to this summer’s deadline, with Didi being of particular interest siting the expiration of his contract at the end of this season. With solid season stats, and a positive relationship with the locker room and front office alike, we very well could see Tulo be given the opportunity to extend his stay in the Bronx by a year or more. If he can prove a constant in a question-riddled season, perhaps he can stick around to see 2020 and beyond in pinstripes!