As the Rockies were losing their game to the Cubs last night in the most Rockie-ish of ways—with their pitchers blowing leads both early and late—the fact that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had departed just before the bottom on the ninth inning elicited the sort of “uh-oh” Denver fans have become accustomed to.
Given Tulo’s superior glove, we knew he wasn’t coming out for defensive reasons, so naturally we figured he must have tweaked something, and we began our now-customary summertime ritual of wondering how bad it was and how long we might have to do without him.
A short time later, we received the news that Tulo is gone for good, traded with LaTroy Hawkins for fellow SS Jose Reyes and “prospects.”
First thought: Whoa.
Next thought: For Reyes? WTF? He’s an extremely talented player but has basically the same health profile as Tulo, missing tons of time the past three seasons with a series of nagging injuries. He’s also a slap-hitter with declining speed, a glove that can’t touch Tulo’s, and a fat $22 million salary over each of the next two seasons.
But after some consideration and a closer examination of those prospects the Rockies received, our current thought is, the Rockies might have actually won a blockbuster trade.
(We reserve the right to alter this thought later. This is, after all, the Rockies.)
Although Reyes is a clear downgrade from Tulo, the prospects and the money are the keys to this deal. The free-spending Blue Jays took on all of Tulo’s remaining contract, almost $100 million, a figure that, despite Tulo’s relative healthy 2015, will now have Blue Jays fans biting their nails every time he pulls up a little lame. Even if the Rockies can’t flip Reyes to another team before this week’s trade deadline or in the offseason, they’ll still save a ton of cash, and Reyes can stabilize the SS position until top prospect Trevor Story is ready.
That said, the keys to this move for the Rockies aren’t the two all stars, but the three guys you’ve never heard of. Miguel Castro is the only one of the trio who’s been in “the Show” so far. He’s a long, lean flamethrower who has struggled a bit this season, but he’s only 20 years old and could be the sort of late-innings shutdown artist that any successful team must have several of. The Rockies also landed Jesus Tinoco, another 20-year-old pitcher who’s still in A-ball.
Whether this move is one day seen as a coup or a disaster will depend upon Jeff Hoffman’s development. The Blue Jays drafted the lanky starter with the ninth pick in the 2014 draft despite knowing he was about to undergo Tommy John surgery. He returned from the procedure this year and hasn’t pitched particularly well, but pitchers who have had that operation typically aren’t all the way back until the second season after they’ve gone under the knife.
In Hoffman, Jon Gray, and Eddie Butler, the Rockies now have three intriguing starting pitching prospects. This doesn’t mean any of them will turn out to be legit, because in baseball, and especially among pitchers, there’s almost no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect.
But the fact that the Rockies were able to save at least $50 million (the difference between Reyes’ contract and Tulo’s) while adding arms the only way they can—because our elevation has permanently closed the door to signing top-notch free agent hurlers—demonstrates that the front office might finally realize what they need to do to rebuild this moribund franchise.
So Rockies fans owe a gigantic thank you to Tulo for all the excitement, hustle, production, and class he’s brought to Colorado. (Now that he’s in the AL, it’s unclear when we’ll be able to thank him in person.) But after deriding the team’s front office for its repeated inaction and curious decisions, we’re cautiously optimistic that they finally got one right.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.