With Didi Gregorius suffering a torn UCL, he needed Tommy John surgery leaving the Yankees to figure out who was going to get the bulk of the playing time at shortstop in 2019. After all, even with Gregorius being a position player, the road back from Tommy John surgery is long, and there is always the risk of a setback.
Now, the Yankees did appear to have a solid internal plan with Gleyber Torres. His natural position is shortstop, so that left the Yankees with the ability to acquire either a second baseman or a shortstop allowing them to slot Torres as needed. So far this offseason, the Yankees have looked on as Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, and Ian Kinsler sign with other teams.
Instead of looking for an upgrade, the Yankees instead opted to roll the dice and sign Troy Tulowitzki.
There was a time when Tulowitzki was arguably the best shortstop on the planet. He was a good defender with a rocket arm and a great bat. With the Rockies, he was a .290/.361/.495 hitter. That was not all Coors Field either as he was a 118 OPS+. For all the talent, Tulowitzki was a bit injury prone, which became a problem when he was traded to the Blue Jays and forced to play over half a season on turf.
Over the past three-and-a-half years, Tulowitzki has been a shell of himself. Last year, he hit just .249/.300/.378 while playing just 66 games. Part of the reason for this production was his needing double heel surgery to remove bone spurs. The spurs as well as the surgery clearly had an impact on his performance leading the Blue Jays to release him despite Tulowitzki still being owed $20 million next year.
Now, given reports and Tulowitzki’s skill set, you can hardly fault the Yankees for taking a flyer on Tulowitzki on the league minimum. Getting him off the turf, giving him another year to heal, and giving him a shot to play in Yankee Stadium could prove beneficial to him. That’s a worthwhile gamble.
However, it’s not a reason to pass on players like Manny Machado, who is a 26 year old superstar who desperately wants to put on the pinstripes.
Remember, the Yankees don’t know when Gregorius can return, and what he will be when he does return. They cannot count on Tulowitzki to provide them anything. With Torres at the Major League level, they no longer have the minor league depth to just call someone up to fill-in and take advantage of an opportunity. Going with Tulowitzki over Machado is a mistake for a team trying to make up eight games in the standings against the Red Sox.
This is not too dissimilar than when the Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez last year. It seemed like a worthy one year gamble for the league minimum. After all, Gonzalez was once one of the best players in baseball. With the team down on Dominic Smith, and Peter Alonso a few years away, Gonzalez seemed like a reasonable risk.
What happened was Gonzalez continued to be a shell of his former self, and the Mets would wind up releasing him on June 11. At that time, the Mets great run to start the season was all but a memory, and everything was falling apart. While there were other flaws with that Mets team, this is the type of thing which happens when you roll the dice on aging ballplayers who have been shells of themselves due to injuries.
This is the risk the Yankees are taking right now with Tulowitzki. For some unbeknownst reason, they are taking a page out of the Mets playbook, a playbook which has failed time and time again, and they are going to opt for reclamation projects over using their financial muscle to win the World Series for the first time in a decade.