Despite the fact that they can't spell his name correctly, the Colorado Rockies are insisting it would take a "haul of the century" in order for any team to make a trade for Troy Tulowitzki, according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo.
MLB.com's Rockies aficionado Thomas Harding put it this way:
"So, according to club officials, the only circumstance under which the Rockies want to make a deal by the Trade Deadline is if it helps the Rockies contend next season. And, young pitching under club control will always be a top priority."
Why this makes sense
1.) Troy Tulowitzki is arguably the most indispensable player in baseball. Any team wishing to land Tulo must understand what they are asking the Rockies to give up. Tulo is the best shortstop in baseball by a wide margin when you combine offensive capability and defensive prowess. Unless the Rockies get Andrelton Simmons in a trade (which they won't), the decline in defensive production will be massive, and even if you factor heavily for Coors Field, his offense (especially with power) dwarfs that of anyone else who mans the position.
2.) The Rockies are in desperate need of MLB-caliber pitching and having this season's best player in the NL is a rare chip you only trade if you can pump a dramatic amount of talent into other areas. The Rockies cannot afford to gamble their most important piece on even the best of prospect hauls, which still can be incredibly volatile. The issue then becomes that most teams who consider themselves "buyers" aren't likely looking to move any of their starting rotation.
This creates an odd scenario where you need a team in the "goldilocks zone" who is willing to part with MLB talent and is banking on competing in the next 2-4 years. If nothing else, the Rockies' main need and the nature of in-season trades make it unlikely to find such a trade partner (some have suggested the Mets) who would be willing to part with enough to make it worth the Rockies' while. An offseason trade makes more sense as there will likely be more suitors.
3.) Tulo has an incredibly friendly superstar contract. In fact, Grant Brisbee makes the excellent point that Troy Tulowitzki is actually underpaid. If the Rockies do manage to get a decent haul for Tulo, and if that haul it includes one star or several young players, it is entirely likely the Rockies wouldn't be able to retain them at the bargain price at which they have Tulo locked up through at least the year 2020. As our own RhodeIslandRoxFan put it:
"From the Rockies' standpoint, it makes little sense to deal Tulo. He's not two or even three seasons away from free agency; he's got six more years on his contract after this season with a team option for a seventh in 2021. In fact, there's no player on the MLB roster right now who is further away from free agency than Tulo. Not Nolan Arenado, not Corey Dickerson, not even Tyler Matzek. If none of these players sign extensions through their free agent seasons and the Rockies wanted to hold onto all of them for as long as possible before they bolted, Tulo would be the last man left on the current roster."
For a mid-market team like the Rockies, having Tulo under contract for so long is a luxury that would be difficult to replicate.
4.) The Rockies may be closer to contending than it seems and feels right now. This season has been an unquestioned nightmare for the team on the injury front, especially where it matters most: on the mound.
When healthy, the Rockies currently have one of the most intimidating lineups in baseball (yes, even if you factor in road hitting and Coors Field effects) and looks to get better with the continued improvement of players like Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson. They have a ton of offensive depth they can move for pitching -- especially bullpen help, which has been the biggest issue this year -- before thinking about moving someone as important as Tulo.
With Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and even guys like Tyler Matzek and Tyler Anderson on the horizon, the Rockies could see an infusion of pitching help without having to move their best player. It would make more sense to move a player like Dickerson or even Carlos Gonzalez if they wanted to make a swing-for-the-fences type deal for pitching because outfielder production can more easily be replaced.
Why this doesn't make sense
1.) The Rockies are currently hanging with the Cubs, Astros, and Rangers in the reverse standings. They have finished in last place in each of the last three seasons, and it just might not be working. As discussed, Tulo is a generationally great player having a great season so his trade value is high at a time when the team may be in need of a complete rebuild.
If the Rockies can get a package centered around young but MLB-quality pitching and a few extra pieces, they should consider it if for no other reason than it has been so hard to sign those types of players in free agency or draft-and-develop them for this organization. That leaves one method available for building a decent staff: trades.
And no player on this team is going to net a better return than Tulowitzki.
2.) It's no secret that Tulo hasn't been the healthiest guy on the planet during his tenure with the Rox. It may just be that a combination of flukiness and being "injury prone" will sap him from ever having the year-long impact needed in a 162-game season.
Trading Tulowitzki would almost certainly have to include some resignation that in this market, we simply can't afford to pay for that many off days, no matter how good a player is when he shows up.
3.) In addition to the fact that he ain't gettin' any healthier, he ain't gettin' any younger either. Tulo turns 30 next year and there are those who already believe he isn't that far removed from a move to third base to preserve his aging and injured legs. Such a move saps quite a bit from his value, and if it is impending, the Rockies may want to trade him while he is still a short stop.
Even if he remains at short, his production is likely to slip before his contract is up and the Rockies' window of contention with him on the team may simply have been missed. If the Rockies aren't competitive until he is 34, what was the point in keeping him during those years? If the Rockies were to net some players closer to the ages of Arenado and Dickerson, they may have a core all maturing together instead of some guys coming into their primes while others are heading out of theirs.
4.) Tulo may be growing tired of the losing. Although I think such storylines are a bit overblown, there has been a swirling of rumors around Tulo's trip to Yankee Stadium -- as well as some recent comments about not wanting to repeat Todd Helton's career -- that have some wondering if he will demand a trade. My position on this is that he signed a contract and don't really care what he demands, but it isn't quite as simple a that.
A happy Tulo is better than a non-happy Tulo, and while I deplore the notion of trading him for his benefit ("Oh gosh, I wish he could just play for a winner!"), there is no question that he is the lifeblood of this team as long as he is here and if he doesn't believe in it, why should any of the rest of us?
It certainly isn't impossible that Tulo could simply force his way off the team, so for the sake of the Rockies, it would be best to trade him on their own terms while they have leverage instead of waiting for the situation to spiral out of control.
Probability of a deal happening before the deadline: 2/10
The main reason this isn't a little bit higher is because the only reason to make in-season trades as traditional "sellers" is to stockpile prospects from contending teams who need the guy they are trading for to push them over the top. These teams don't want to move parts of their existing team, and while the Rockies (like every team) could always use more prospects, it isn't their biggest area of need.
Starting pitching and great defensive catchers don't typically get moved by contending teams. Rockies fans are tired of hoping that prospects pan out, and there have been questions about the team's ability to properly develop those prospects. It simply wouldn't make sense for the Rockies to trade him now given the volatility of their pitching staff and the number of assets on offense.
It makes more sense to, at the very least, wait until this offseason, when they are likely to be presented with better offers and also have a much better indication of what they do and don't have moving into 2015.
Tulo may very well have the exact same trade value a year from now, at which point it will be clearer what the Rockies actually have in Arenado, Dickerson, Butler, Gray, Matzek, and the like, in addition to another offseason of trying to build around a core that contains two of only four five-tool players in baseball.
Ultimately though, it really all comes back to the baseball on the field. Tulowitzki is literally the only MLB player who does what he does (elite offense and defense at SS) and playing roster whack-a-mole starting with your best player is a risky endeavor. You know you are creating a hole at a position that was once your strongest and hoping you can make up for it in other areas.
The Rockies have other assets -- beginning with CarGo and running through Justin Morneau, Charlie Blackmon, and Josh Rutledge to name a few -- to trade in an attempt to improve pitching before going anywhere near the most irreplaceable player in baseball.