Finally after 11 seasons, Jays land Tulowitzki

By Bob Elliott

He is the big fish, the one got away that summer around dusk, years ago on a quiet Muskoka lake.

The bauble you purchased and then lost ... somewhere in the house and no matter how long you look you can’t find.

For a long time the Blue Jays had a love affair Troy Tulowitzki.

And around 12:30 Tuesday night, the Jays finally added Tulowitzki, when Kenny Rosenthal of FOX Sports broke the story.

Finally, the big fish had been landed.

When does Tulowitzki get his first mound start for this team in dire need of pitching?

Well, he doesn’t. 

The Jays -- 24th in the majors in starter’s ERA (4.38) -- are still searching for starting pitching help. But they played two large chips in former No. 1 pick Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro, from triple-A Buffalo after being the Jays closer in April.

Make no mistake the Jays have upgraded at shortstop, acquiring the best in the game and this isn’t a rental, acquiring 4 1/3 years of Tulowitzki for 2 1/3 years of Jose Reyes and picking up $47.2 million US in cash.

And a surer set of hands in the person of Tulowitzki should allow the Jays pitchers to perform better.

Maybe the market for a starter who would be under control -- like Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco -- deep into the future, or rent-a-starter -- like Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds -- was too expensive.

The Reds wanted Marcus Stroman for Cueto. Cueto’s 12 starts for Stroman, who might pitch 12 years. 

The Jays were right to say no thanks to that.

The Jays did offer lefty Daniel Norris, outfielder Dalton Pompey, who both made the opening day roster, and Hoffman to Cleveland for Carrasco.

So, who will the Jays offer Dioner Navarro, Norris, Pompey and whomever to before the non-waiver July 31 trade deadline on Friday?

The likes of soon-to-be-free agents right-handers Mike Leake (8-5, 3.78) of the Cincinnati Reds, Yovani Gallardo, 29 (7-9, 3.19) of the Texas Rangers and Ian Kennedy, 30 (6-9, 4.58) of the San Diego Padres, as well as Andrew Cashner, 28 (4-10, 3.93), who is a free agent after the 2016 season.     

Alex Anthopoulos attempted to deal Reyes for Tulowitzki this winter.

The two teams talked again in May. 

Then again in July.

Again at the All-Star break.

And then, late Monday night, bingo. The main point about Tulowitzki is the Tuesday trade corrected a mistake -- a misplaced ring, the big one that slipped off the hook 11 years ago. 

Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was always talking about needing dirt bags -- players who leave the field with dirty uniforms -- how he loved dirt bags.

And the Jays scouted a shortstop from the Long Beach Dirtbags leading into the 2005 draft. 

What could be a better fit?

The shortstop was Tulowitzki.

Toronto decided to go with the best pitcher available selecting lefty Ricky Romero sixth over-all. Tulowitzki went seventh to the Rockies. 

While many of the scouting staff wanted Tulowitzki over Romero, the GM thought Russ Adams could play short and was the long-term answer. And he did ... for 156 starts in parts of three seasons. 

The Jays paid Romero $7.5 million US this year after releasing him and he was signed by the San Francisco Giants. He has pitched seven innings for the rookie-class Arizona League Giants.

Tulowitzki finished second in 2007 rookie of the year voting to Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Current GM Alex Anthopoulos had the same affection for Tulowitzki when as scouting co-ordinator under Jon Lalonde he saw Tulowitzki and the Dirt Bags play a weekend series at Arizona State. Ricciardi saw Long Beach State play Cal State Fullerton that spring.

When the Rockies made the 2007 World Series, Tulowitzki told me how “two Jays scouts visited my house, but on draft day it was apparent they wanted pitching.”

The Jays made a mistake drafting by need rather than taking the best available just as they did in 1983.
Hall of Fame scribe Peter Gammons asked then Jays GM Pat Gillick who was the best player in the draft? Gillick answered Roger Clemens. “So you’re picking Clemens?” Gammons asked.

Gillick said, no. The Jays need was a catcher and they drafted Matt Stark. Stark had one hit with the Jays in five games. In all, he had five hits in 13 games the majors. Clemens on the other hand had 31 hits -- not to mention 354 wins. 

What we remember about that 2007 post-season was lefty Jeff Francis hit Justin Upton in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. As Upton headed to first cursing at Francis, Tulowitzki stepped into the middle of the diamond and yelled at Upton: “Get your butt to the bag and shut up! Why would we hit you, you’re a .200 hitter we want to pitch to you.”

Tulowitzki’s idol is Cal Ripken. Ripken, approached the rookie while broadcasting during that post season saying 
“We have similar bodies. It is obvious you know the game from how you position yourself, but you know you throw better on the run than I ever did.”

The 6-foot-3 Tulowitzki said the 6-foot-4 Ripken opened the door for tall shortstops. 

And Anthopoulos, a man is his final year of his contract, added piece of the puzzle, not for just this season, upgrading the infield and adding a power bat while giving up some of his team’s future.

This is not the arrival of Josh Johnson.

Yet, this did not look like a deal made by someone trading because he was fearful of losing his job.

A man like that would have taken the Kansas City Royals asking price of second baseman Devon Travis and reliever Roberto Osuna for closer Derek Holland or make the Stroman-Cueto deal.

At Coors Field when Tulowitzki comes to the plate fans chant “Tu-low, Tu-low.”

How much chanting and how many people are at the Rogers Centre in September will depend on whether Anthopoulos is able to go too high to get another starter.