In the event that the big news of the baseball world somehow escaped you, the Colorado Rockies traded superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and bionic reliever LaTroy Hawkins to the Toronto Blue Jays Monday night. In return, the Rockies received shortstop Jose Reyes and a trio of pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco.
I took an in-depth look at Tulowitzki's plusses and minuses two weeks ago in discussing him as a possible trade target for the Cubs, concluding that Tulo's risk and price -- both in cash and prospect currency -- would be much too great to justify the risk for the Cubs. In spite of that, I expected his market value to remain quite high as a shortstop with his track record and current offensive production.
Now we know Tulo's market price, and we know his new home. With the trade completed, let's take a look at four ways in which it impacts the Cubs, both now and moving forward.
1. Tulo Moving to an American League Contender Means He's Not Moving to a National League Contender
This one is extremely obvious but worth mentioning. Because Tulo is now a Blue Jay, he isn't a Met or a National. That's a positive for the Cubs. Not much else to say here.
2. The Rockies Are In Full-On Sell Mode
This could have significantly greater implications for the Cubs. In the greater market sense, it's nice for the Cubs, as a buyer, to have another committed seller in the marketplace, thus raising the supply and dropping prices, however marginally.
More importantly, the Rockies are likely to bring center fielder Charlie Blackmon to the garage sale. I liked Blackmon based on the numbers and I like him even more now having watched a few games worth of tape before Monday's Cubs-Rockies game. Blackmon absolutely looks the part and has the production to support it. An acquisition of Blackmon would come with the long-term benefit of adding a medium-term, controllable center field option for the Cubs beyond 2015 in addition to significantly improving the outfield defense and depth this year.
The Cubs could use Blackmon, Fowler, Coghlan, and even Jorge Soler in a starting time share with Chris Denorfia coming off of the bench. Perhaps most importantly, Blackmon has proved durable throughout his career whereas Fowler, who appeared to tweak his back on Monday night, and Soler -- who has suffered through a couple of injuries in his time as a professional -- are hardly the models of health. Late inning defensive alignments featuring Blackmon in center being flanked by Denorfia and Fowler inspire much more confidence that groups with Coghlan and Soler manning the corners.
A Blackmon acquisition would be a forward-looking move with tangible present improvements. It seems to fit the bill, even if Blackmon is more of a 3 WAR center fielder going forward than the star he's playing like this year. Of course the price will dictate the plausibility of a Blackmon trade, but Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich may very well be highly motivated to deal Blackmon as he enters his 30s for a club whose contention window appears to start no earlier than 2017 and quite possibly later. Bridich's willingness to take on lower-level pieces could facilitate a deal as the Cubs have a bevy of enticing prospects in the depths of their system.
I'm on record as being against a Carlos Gonzalez acquisition, but I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention CarGo as a possible Cubs target. Six homers in three games will get a guy a lot of attention, particularly when the sixth is a go-ahead blast on the road in the ninth inning.
3. The Value of Prospects In Deals Continues to Skyrocket
I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out why in the world the Rockies took Jose Reyes back in this deal. I thought through endless possibilities -- perhaps Bridich thinks that Coors Field will bring Reyes' power back or maybe owner Dick Monfort loves having an expensive shortstop in his 30s -- but the only rationale that truly made sense to me is this: the Blue Jays needed to move out salary and as payment for taking on the rest of Reyes' deal, the Rockies secured a prospect boost. Maybe Castro was initially Alberto Tirado? Or perhaps Tinoco wasn't in the original deal? Maybe Hoffman wasn't in the deal until the Rockies agreed to absorb Reyes' salary, kicking a lesser prospect into the ace headliner.
Regardless, Reyes is basically dead weight to this Rockies ballclub, an aging, breaking shortstop with a bit of value for a win-now club. Owed $48 million for 2016-17 (including his 2018 buyout), Reyes has as much negative value as an asset as James Shields. It only makes sense that the Rockies would take him back in a deal if they had to in order to up their prospect return. Otherwise Bridich could have told Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos to pound sand, telling him to flip Reyes somewhere else so the Rockies only took back prospects in the deal.
Given that, the value of Hoffman, Castro, and Tinoco must be seen as extremely high. I'll be very critical of the Rockies for agreeing to absorb Reyes under any other circumstances. They desperately need to commit to a full rebuild and with so many attractive pieces in place in the minor leagues like David Dahl, Jon Gray, and Raimel Tapia, they need to gobble up pieces to complement that next core, not guys to help them over the 70-win mark in 2016.
4. The Value of Going for It (or Lack Thereof)
Speaking of Anthopoulos, he is highly regarded among baseball folks as a bright mind who makes good deals. Unfortunately for Anthopoulos, good deals don't always garner enough wins, and at the end of the day, wins and flags are why teams play the games. Since taking over following the 2009 season -- and with former general manager J.P. Ricciardi having left two welcome gifts for Anthopoulos in the form of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- Anthopoulos has built teams that have produced a combined record of 446-464 through Monday (.490 winning percentage), never winning more than 85 games while never winning fewer than 73. Anthopoulos spent the early part of his tenure building an enviable cache of prospect talent with names like Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, and Dalton Pompey all added in his first draft as general manager (and unsigned 18th rounder Kris Bryant!) supplemented by the additions of draftees Daniel Norris, Anthony DeSclafani, Kevin Pillar, and Marcus Stroman in subsequent drafts and prime international signees Franklin Barreto, Alberto Tirado, and Roberto Osuna.
Anthopoulos then dealt heavily from that depth, sending out many of those youngsters and other top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Henderson Alvarez in deals that brought Reyes, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Josh Donaldson, and others to Toronto. Anthopoulos also lavished catcher Russell Martin with an $82 million contract this winter, seemingly stealing him away from the Cubs.
In the end, though the Blue Jays have the best run differential in the American League and second in Major Leagues to only the awful Cardinals, the club sits at 50-50 as the pitching depth has been replacement level and the four primary starters -- Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marco Estrada, and Dickey -- have combined for just 4.7 WAR. For comparison sake, that's just 1.0 WAR greater than Jake Arrieta by himself.
Osuna has turned into a relief ace and Liam Hendriks has enjoyed a breakout year, yet the rest of the Toronto bullpen has produced -0.2 WAR over 209.1 innings. This has left the Jays in the middle of the bullpen pack -- just 0.2 WAR behind the Cubs' strong bullpen -- but it has certainly been responsible for some of the club's sequencing woes. The Jays rank 12th in defensive efficiency thanks in large part to the immense defensive contributions from Donaldson, Martin, and Pillar, yet he miserable contributions of Bautista, Chris Colabello, and Encarnacion with the glove have also contributed to the club's woes.
It's entirely possible that the Blue Jays will get hot and overtake the middling Twins for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Unfortunately for Anthopoulos and Jays fans, the first two months count too, so the club's projected record is only 83-79, a hair ahead of the Twins and Orioles at 81-81 apiece.
What's the point of everything I just wrote, particularly as it applies to the Cubs? Perhaps it's not the greatest idea to be methodical in talent acquisition. Perhaps the best move is to acquire talent that can all excel at the same time. The Cubs front office has sought out this method thus far, trading 2012-14 talent for 2015-and-beyond talent. While we're reaping that benefit of that this year with a vastly improved ballclub, perhaps the Anthopoulos reality will inspire Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the Ricketts family checkbook to go even bigger this winter in procuring talent.
Five years of great drafts and incredibly successful international prospect signings nonetheless left the Blue Jays needing to trade a top-25 prospect and two other fringe top-100 prospects for the right to pay a cracking shortstop in his 30s with a terrifying injury history north of $100 million because the Blue Jays finally had a real shot at the postseason.
The Cubs have put themselves into a position where they shouldn't need to make such a move in 2016 and beyond, instead doing their shopping in November when prices are lower, avoiding the late July sticker shock that comes every year.
In the end, the only team I hate this trade more for than the Rockies (given their brutal acquisition of Reyes' deal without much of a market for old, average, crazy expensive shortstops) is the Blue Jays. The Jays still have a window, but I can't help but feel that it should have been open much wider. It seems dumbfounding that they'll never pay Bautista more than $14 million, never pay Encarnacion more than $10 million, and yet they'll presumably never win more than 85 games in a single season throughout their Toronto careers.
Sometimes you just have to make your team great to make sure that the useful assets you've acquired play in meaningful games. I suppose that's what the Tulowitzki acquisition does for the Jays, but the Cubs appear to be on track to add the most impactful talent in the winter paying wintertime prices. We should all be thankful for that, even when facing Jeff Hoffman and the scorching hot Rockies in the 2019 National League Championship Series.