LAS VEGAS -- Troy Tulowitzki's time with the Blue Jays officially came to an end, as the five-time All-Star was released on Tuesday morning with two years remaining on his contract.The move came one day after general manager Ross Atkins met with Tulowitzki's representatives at the Winter Meetings. The 34-year-old
LAS VEGAS -- Troy Tulowitzki's time with the Blue Jays officially came to an end, as the five-time All-Star was released on Tuesday morning with two years remaining on his contract.
The move came one day after general manager Ross Atkins met with Tulowitzki's representatives at the Winter Meetings. The 34-year-old shortstop is owed $34 million over the next two years of his deal, plus an additional $4 million buyout for 2021. Toronto remains on the hook for that full amount.
The sudden release was somewhat surprising, but not entirely out of the blue, because it came less than a week after Atkins made some very candid comments about the veteran infielder. Atkins said Tulowitzki would have to "overachieve" to regularly play shortstop at an "above-average level."
"Ultimately a tough decision for the Toronto Blue Jays that we had to make," Atkins said on Tuesday afternoon. "We feel like it's in the best interest of the organization, in the best interest of Troy -- fortunately, because of the professionalism and respectfulness of [agent] Paul Cohen and Troy Tulowitzki, we agreed upon that."
The decision to release Tulowitzki paves the way for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to become the everyday option at shortstop. Brandon Drury is expected to start the year at third, with Devon Travis at second and Justin Smoak at first. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., ranked as MLB's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, should be ready to take over third by the end of April, while Richard Urena offers depth as a utility infielder.
Tulowitzki, despite his past pedigree, did not fit into that roster alignment. Reports suggest his recent workouts in California have been going well, but the 12-year veteran hasn't played in a Major League game since July 28, 2017, because of ankle and foot injuries. Tulowitzki has every intention of playing in the Major Leagues next season, but it's a total guess as to whether it will actually happen.
Atkins sidestepped questions about exactly how the money owed to Tulowitzki will be handled by ownership group Rogers Communications. Toronto would not say whether the $38 million owed will be counted towards this year's payroll or if the ownership group would spread it out over several years.
"I don't want to get into an accounting discussion, but that money is on our books," Atkins said.
Tulowitzki was acquired from the Rockies by former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos alongside veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins prior to the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Toronto sent Jose Reyes and prospects Miguel Castro, Jesus Tinoco and Jeff Hoffman to Colorado in a deal that led to mixed results for both sides.
When Tulowitzki arrived in Toronto, he had two National League Silver Slugger Awards, had been named to five All-Star teams, won two Gold Glove Awards, and was generally considered one of the top shortstops in the game. His numbers with the Blue Jays never lived up to the previous pedigree, as he finished with a .250/.313./.414 slash line and appeared in just 238 games for the ballclub over almost three and a half seasons.
The one contribution fans and critics should not overlook, despite all of the injuries and struggles, was Tulowitzki's impact on a pair of teams that went to the postseason. Tulowitzki hit a crucial home run in Game 3 of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Rangers, and he drove in seven runs during the ensuing AL Championship Series against the Royals.
The postseason memories will not be forgotten any time soon, but ultimately this is not the way Toronto envisioned the tenure ending when the blockbuster trade was made a few years ago.
"It's certainly not the way anyone would plan it, write it up, or script it," Atkins said of the release. "Professional and respectful. That's what I think of when I think of Troy Tulowitzki. I think of the contributions he's made to the Toronto Blue Jays and the game.
"His passion for baseball is unmatched. His commitment to the organization was 100 percent the entire time he was here. It's not what anyone was hoping for, but ultimately professional and respectful."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.