PITTSBURGH -- Last week at the Winter Meetings, the Pirates repeatedly emphasized their confidence in Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, their top in-house options at shortstop. But general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged that they would keep looking for an upgrade, and a couple of recent reports indicate that their search
PITTSBURGH -- Last week at the Winter Meetings, the Pirates repeatedly emphasized their confidence in Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, their top in-house options at shortstop. But general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged that they would keep looking for an upgrade, and a couple of recent reports indicate that their search is still ongoing.
The Pirates are one of the teams interested in veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported. Pittsburgh also has "big interest" in free agent Freddy Galvis, according to the New York Post.
The Blue Jays released Tulowitzki on Dec. 11 with two years and $38 million left on his contract. The 34-year-old hasn't played a Major League game since July 28, 2017, because of ankle and foot injuries. He sat out all of last season after having surgery to remove bone spurs in both of his feet.
Tulowitzki is reportedly healthy, working out and looking forward to playing next season. Toronto cast some doubt on his ability to play at an acceptable level going forward, however, even before releasing him.
"He will have to overachieve to play shortstop at an above-average level, with above-average offensive performance for 140 games," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters on Dec. 5. "That would be unlikely based on what has occurred in the last 2 1/2 years. That doesn't mean he's not going to do it, but candidly, I don't think that's likely."
Still, Tulowitzki would be a low-risk, high-reward gamble for the Bucs. Most of Pittsburgh's additions this offseason have been players with high ceilings -- with some risk to go with them -- and Tulowitzki would certainly fit the mold at this stage of his career.
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With Toronto on the hook for the remainder of his contract, Tulowitzki can sign for the league minimum this winter. That would certainly appeal to Pittsburgh, which recently traded away starter Ivan Nova to clear his roughly $9 million salary.
Tulowitzki also has history with Clint Hurdle, his first big league manager. Hurdle started the rookie Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2007, when the Rockies made a stunning run to the World Series.
Tulowitzki may not be the elite, All-Star player he was in Colorado, but he remains a productive shortstop when healthy. He slashed .254/.318/.443 with a 102 OPS+ and 3.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, over 131 games in 2016.
The Yankees "might be a possibility" for Tulowitzki, Rosenthal reported, as New York is looking for someone to replace the injured Didi Gregorius. The Cubs are reportedly interested in Tulowitzki as a utility player, whereas the Pirates could offer Tulowitzki more of an everyday role.
Pittsburgh's options at shortstop are Gonzalez and Newman, a pair of intriguing but unproven players. Signing Tulowitzki would benefit both, in a way. Gonzalez could serve as a utility infielder, the role he previously held in Cleveland, while the rookie Newman could learn from a veteran with five All-Star nods to his name. If Tulowitzki's injuries prevent him from playing, the Bucs would still have two infielders capable of manning the position.
The switch-hitting Galvis may not have the upside of Tulowitzki, but he has proven to be among the Majors' most dependable players by logging 162 games the past two seasons. The 29-year-old is a career .246/.290/.374 hitter. He hit 20 homers for the Phillies in 2016 and combined to hit 25 the past two years.
Only a handful of teams entered the offseason looking for an everyday shortstop, and several of those holes have been filled. The Tigers replaced Jose Iglesias with former Pirate Jordy Mercer. The Phillies picked up Jean Segura. The Padres can shift Luis Urias to shortstop after signing veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. Manny Machado may fill the Yankees' vacancy.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.