The Toronto Blue Jays today announce the release of SS Troy Tulowitzki.— Blue Jays PR (@BlueJaysPR) December 11, 2018
The Blue Jays still owe Tulowitzki $20 million in 2019 and $14 million in 2020, plus the $4 million buyout of his $15 million club option for 2021. That is $38 million total across two years. Any team can now sign Tulowitzki for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.
Heel injuries, which required surgery to both feet, caused the 34-year-old Tulowitzki to miss the entire 2018 season. He has not appeared in a big league game since July 28, 2017, and a variety of injuries caused him to miss 545 of 1,134 possible games from 2012-18.
The time of the release -- right smack in the middle of the winter meetings -- is somewhat curious, though Tulowitzki's agent Paul Cohen explained it gives them time to find a new team for 2019. Here's what Cohen told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic following the release:
"I've known (Blue Jays president) Mark Shapiro for decades. He is one of the most decent, forthright, honest people I know. If they are really going to go with young guys next year, it's best to give Troy the opportunity now to seek out the best situation. In that regard, we're very grateful to both Mark and (GM) Ross Atkins. They could have made a decision in the spring, but it would be a much bigger challenge then (to find a new team) vs. now when not a lot of offseason has taken place."
Tulowitzki's release comes only a few days after Atkins admitted the team didn't expect much production from him in 2019. Here's what Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet:
"Candidly, and I think Troy would agree, that's not likely," Atkins told the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America Wednesday afternoon. "He will have to over-achieve to play shortstop at an above-average level with above-average offensive performance for 140 games. That would be unlikely based on what has occurred in the last two and a half years, but that doesn't mean he's not going to do it.
"But candidly," the GM added, "I don't think that's likely."
Tulowitzki is the latest player to be released with multiple years remaining on a big-money contract. Among others, Pablo Sandoval (two and a half years and $48 million), Carl Crawford (one and a half years, $35 million), and Alex Rodriguez (one and a half years and $27 million) were all cut loose before their deals expired.
At his peak, Tulowitzki was a brilliant two-way shortstop who put up several MVP caliber seasons with the Rockies. He was part of the team's 2007 NL pennant-winning squad as a rookie and he authored a .309/.385/.553 (137 OPS+) batting line with 143 home runs and 30.6 WAR from 2009-14 before his body started to betray him.
Colorado traded Tulowitzki to Toronto at the 2015 deadline for a package that included Jose Reyes and Jeff Hoffman. He was an instrumental part the club's run to the 2015 and 2016 ALCS and hit .250/.313/.414 (93 OPS+) with 36 home runs and 4.7 WAR in 238 games for the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki is a career .290/.361/.495 (118 OPS+) hitter in parts of 12 MLB seasons.
Tulowitzki has recovered from his dual heel surgeries and is working out this offseason, though it's unclear whether he'll be ready to join a team for the start of spring training. Given the low cost, it wouldn't be a total surprise if another team gave Tulowitzki a shot in 2019, even at a position other than shortstop.