District On Deck staff writer Matt Weyrich argued in a post two days ago that Troy Tulowitzki would be a good fit for the Nationals, and that the organization should consider getting involved in trade talks to bring the shortstop to Washington.
That’s not a move that the Nationals should make, for a number of reasons.
We all know that Ian Desmond will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, and it is doubtful that the Nationals are going to be willing to commit to an expensive, long term contract to keep Desmond on the team. My guess is that Ian is going to look really good in pinstripes.
The Nationals haven’t been willing to offer a long term contract to a 30-year-old Ian Desmond. Why in the world would the Nationals want to take on the large contract of the 30-year-old Tulowitzki which has six more years to run? Tulowitzki is due $20 million per year this year and every year to 2020. In 2020 he is due $14 million. In 2021 there is a team option for $15 million or the team has to pay $4 million to buy that year out.
The Nationals don’t need to commit to that kind of contract to get a guy who may have two years of good shortstop play left in him. Statistically, shortstops lose range and mobility somewhere between ages 30-34. This is one reason the Nationals have not been willing to sign Desmond to an expensive long term deal at this point when Ian is going to be 30 years old this year.
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Tulowitzki hasn’t been able to stay healthy. This is another problem. Troy only played 91 games last year, 126 in in 2013 and 47 in 2012. It doesn’t matter if Tulo can hit if he isn’t in the lineup. With his injury history the Nationals would have to have a good backup option at shortstop on the bench to be able to step in and take over when Troy inevitably ends up on the DL.
There is no DH in the National League. When Tulowitzki loses range and can’t play shortstop any longer, what do the Nationals do with him? They can’t move him to first base because Ryan Zimmerman is signed through 2019 with a team option for 2020 and will be at first base for the foreseeable future. Maybe you could convert Tulowitzki to play second, but again that means you have to have a good option to play second sitting on the bench to cover for him when he gets hurt.
A thirty-five or thirty-six year old middle infielder is a scary proposition, especially one who isn’t durable. If you have to keep a good middle infielder on the bench to cover for Tulowitzki when he gets hurt, why not take a pass on Tulo and let the bench guy have the job permanently? It would be more cost effective.
Trading for Tulowitzki isn’t going to add a piece to this team that is guaranteed to help in the playoffs. At this point, Desmond has just as much playoff experience as Tulowitzki, and Desmond’s is of more recent vintage. Troy has been to the playoffs twice: once in 2007 when the Rockies went on their miracle run to get to the World Series and the second time in 2009 when the Rockies were bounced in the Division Series.
Troy’s batting average in the playoffs is .211. It was an abysmal .195 in the 2007 playoffs and World Series. Tulowitzki hasn’t been to the playoffs in five years. Desmond has been to two rounds of the post season in the last three years and has a .270 average in post season play.
The worst effect of putting Tulowitzki on this team is the block he will be on the up and coming middle infielders whom Mike Rizzo has either drafted or traded to obtain. Wilmer Difo, one of those prospects, has split his time in the minors playing second base and shortstop. He finally put his hitting together last year, posting an average of .315 in single A ball.
This year Difo has been moved up to AA Harrisburg, and is hitting .333 since moving up a level. He has been playing mostly shortstop this year. He’s 23 years old. If he continues to develop and hit well, he will be ready to have a shot at a job with the big club as early as next year or the year after. The thinking is that is the reason he has been playing exclusively shortstop this year.
The rumored player to be named later in the Nationals trade involving the Padres and Tampa Bay that occurred in the offseason is Trea Turner, who is considered one of the premier shortstop prospects in all of baseball. If Turner develops and is ready to crack the majors in four or five years (or sooner), what happens to Turner and Difo if Tulowitzki is on this team for the next five or six years blocking their move up to the majors?
Rumor has it that the Rockies want pitching prospects for Tulowitzki. The Nationals are going to be in need of their good pitching prospects. Jordan Zimmermann will probably not be returning to the Nationals as he is a free agent at the end of this year and will command a very large contract that the Nats have not been willing to put on the table. Doug Fister is also a free agent. Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are only guaranteed to be here for another two years.
The Nationals will need to move their prospects to the majors in the next two to three years. They can’t trade good pitchers for an injury prone, expensive infielder who is probably past the prime of his career. That’s the type of mistake we have seen the New York Mets make on numerous occasions and it never works out.
Troy Tulowitzki is not a good fit for the Nationals, right now or in the future. The Nationals need to take a pass and let some other team make this mistake.