NEW YORK -- Troy Tulowitzki spent the better part of his formative years idolizing a certain Yankees shortstop. He will have an opportunity to make that job title his own in 2019.
The Yankees have agreed to a league-minimum contract with Tulowitzki, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The signing was first reported by ESPN and has not been officially announced by the team.
• Five key needs Yanks need to address before Spring Training
The 34-year-old Tulowitzki is a five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger, but his career trajectory was altered by injuries, prompting his release by the Blue Jays last month. Toronto remains on the hook for nearly all of the $38 million owed to him over the next two seasons.
While Tulowitzki provides a low-risk option to fill in for shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is expected to be sidelined until at least June and potentially as late as August while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the signing does not necessarily preclude New York from also landing free agent Manny Machado.
The superstar infielder is expected to choose between New York, the Phillies and the White Sox, having visited with each potential suitor prior to the holidays. Should Machado choose the Yankees, Tulowitzki could shift to a bench role, similar to the one filled by Neil Walker last season.
A 12-year big league veteran who wears uniform No. 2 in admiration of retired Yankees captain Derek Jeter, Tulowitzki has not appeared in a Major League game since July 28, 2017, due to ankle and foot injuries. The Yankees were among 11 teams who scouted Tulowitzki at a Long Beach State showcase last month following his release by the Blue Jays.
Tulowitzki made his big league debut with the Rockies as a 21-year-old in 2006 and developed into one of the game's top all-around players, compiling a .299/.371/.513 slash line with 188 homers and 657 RBIs in 1,048 games with Colorado.
The Blue Jays believed they were importing that caliber of star when they acquired Tulowitzki prior to the 2015 Trade Deadline, but his performance never lived up to the previous pedigree, as he finished with a .250/.313./.414 slash line and appeared in just 238 games for Toronto over almost three and a half seasons.
Toronto GM Ross Atkins spoke candidly about the uphill climb that Tulowitzki faced to crack their roster, saying that he would have to "overachieve" to regularly play shortstop at an "above-average level."
Tulowitzki's addition to the roster will close an interesting loop in franchise history. In 2010, when Jeter's contract negotiations had reached a contentious stage, Jeter challenged general manager Brian Cashman by asking, "Who would you rather have playing shortstop this year than me?" according to a 2015 Sports Illustrated article.
Cashman replied, "Do you really want me to answer that?" When Jeter urged him to do so, Cashman offered the name of Tulowitzki, who was enjoying his first All-Star campaign with the Rockies. The Yankees, Cashman added, were paying for production and not past performance. Jeter eventually agreed to a three-year, $51 million extension.
In 2014, it was speculated that Tulowitzki could have been scoping out his future workplace when he attended a Yankees home game from the Legends seats behind home plate, paying homage during Jeter's final season. Instead, the Yankees acquired Gregorius from the D-backs in a three-team trade that December.
Tulowitzki's arrival figures to permit Gleyber Torres to remain at second base, with Miguel Andujar manning third base for the coming season. That could all change in the coming weeks, as the baseball world awaits Machado's decision.