Troy Tulowitzki Rumors
Todd Helton recently announced that he will retire after the 2013 season, providing an opportunity to reflect on his excellent career. Helton will spend his entire big-league tenure with one team, a rarity in this era, and that's due at least in part to the gigantic $142MM extension he signed in 2001.
Helton has had a textbook career path. He reached the Majors at age 23, improved through his first three seasons, and peaked from ages 26 through 30, then began a long, gradual decline phase, playing less and less effectively as his power, and then his ability to hit for average, deserted him. His career has also been typical in that he was dramatically underpaid for many of his best years and overpaid for many of his worst ones. Helton produced 8.3 wins above replacement as a 26-year-old in 2000, when he made $1.3MM. He produced between 5.5 and 7.1 WAR in all of the next four seasons, then never topped 4.4 WAR again.
Helton's massive contract did not kick in until 2003, which means that the Rockies paid $142MM and only got two seasons above 4.4 WAR. For the life of the contract, the Rockies received 30 WAR over nine years. That's not a terrible total, but it's not a good one either, given that a win on the free-agent market in, say, 2005 was worth much less than the $5-6MM it's worth now. Fangraphs' dollar values suggest that Helton was worth $105MM over the life of the contract, about $37MM less than he was paid. (Helton would have been arbitration-eligible in 2003, also, which means he also might have made a hair less in that season, one of his best in the entire contract, than the $10.6MM the extension paid him.)
The deal also made Helton one of MLB's highest-paid players even though the Rockies have never really been a high-payroll team, and there were several years in which Helton's contract made up about a quarter of the Rockies' Opening Day payroll. The Rockies made the playoffs twice and had three winning seasons over the life of the contract.
None of that is Helton's fault. He was an outstanding player in his prime and a pretty good one in his 30s, and the Rockies just happened to pay too heavily for him. It was a little surprising, then, that as they watched Helton's decline years unfold, they signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to another bank-busting contract.
Tulowitzki's contract was, in a way, even more remarkable than Helton's, in that the Rockies committed to it in late 2010 even though they already had Tulowitzki under control through 2014, after which he would be 30 years old. The Rockies effectively committed $119MM in new money to cover the 2015 through 2020 seasons, ending right around Tulowitzki's 36th birthday. From 2015 through 2019, Tulowitzki will make $20MM per year. For much of that time, they'll also have Carlos Gonzalez's backloaded $80MM contract to contend with. Gonzalez agreed to his deal, which essentially bought out four pre-free-agency seasons at $27MM and three free-agent years for $53MM, five weeks after Tulowitzki got his.
Tulowitzki's performance since he signed the contract has revealed both its potential upside and its potential downside. If he continues to play as he has in 2013, when he has produced 5.5 WAR, the contract will be a bargain. But as he ages, it will be difficult to sustain that level of performance, particularly if he suffers more injuries like the groin strain that caused him to miss much of the 2012 season.
So why did the Rockies sign Tulowitzki to such an enormous extension? "It was the right thing to do," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said at the time. "We believe in character, team and integrity."
The extension reportedly grew out of a broader conversation between Tulowitzki and O'Dowd. "The maturity of understanding the continuity and stability of things and what he's trying to become as a man led me to say to our owner, 'I think maybe we should explore this right now,'" O'Dowd said. The Rockies evidently believe that character, maturity and other intangibles are very valuable. Many teams talk about the importance of character, but there's ample reason to believe it when the Rockies are doing the talking.
Of course, keeping a star player in a market surely has financial value in merchandise sales and fan loyalty. That kind of value is difficult to measure for us outsiders, but the Rockies surely have some idea what kind of loyalty value the Helton extension has provided, and how keeping Tulowitzki around for several more years might benefit them beyond just his performance on the field. Regardless, it's difficult to imagine how those sorts of tough-to-measure benefits might compensate for the $37MM the Rockies appear to have overpaid Helton for his performance from 2003 through 2011, and the Rockies' performance as a team over that period hasn't helped answer those questions.
Tulowitzki is a different player, obviously, and his extension may turn out well. In fact, it's less risky than Helton's was. The $20MM annual salaries for 2015 through 2019 are high, but they aren't that high when one accounts for salary inflation. If a win is worth $5-6MM now, it could easily be worth $6-7MM in, say, 2018, which means that Tulowitzki would only need to provide about 3 WAR annually to make the deal a decent one for the Rockies. (It's hard to say for sure how new TV deals will continue to affect the salary landscape, but the Rockies' expires in 2014.) There's also the fact that Tulowitzki plays good defense, or at least he does now -- his ability to field at a premium position should prevent the contract from being a complete debacle.
Of course, that assumes he stays healthy. Tulowitzki missed significant chunks of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 seasons with injuries, and players tend not to get healthier as they get older. Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire points out the parallels between Tulowitzki and Nomar Garciaparra, who suffered from a number of injuries and never put up a star-caliber season after age 29. As Lemire also points out, though, Derek Jeter also had an enormous contract that carried him through his mid-30s, and he played very well until almost the very end of it.
Unless the Rockies substantially raise their payroll in the coming years, the Tulowitzki extension does represent a risk. Tulowitzki's injuries could continue to be a problem as he enters his 30s, a decade that is generally unkind to ballplayers anyway. Unlike Helton's contract, though, Tulowitzki's deal won't make him one of the sport's highest-paid players, and Tulowitzki won't have to perform at quite as high a level as Helton would have to justify the contract.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman may be forced to play the bad guy role again as the club considers how they'll address Derek Jeter given the captain's age and durability issues, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Three scouts and three executives polled by Harper each said they believe Cashman will acquire an everyday shortstop this offseason, as they don't believe Jeter will be able to handle the position and the Yankees don't have acceptable alternatives. "He’ll be a 40-year old shortstop who already had limited range," one executive said, noting Jeter's injured ankle. "If you’re the GM, it’s your responsibility to make the tough decision for the good of the ballclub.” Here's more notes from around the majors' eastern divisions...
- The majority of the six baseball people who Harper spoke with suggested shortstop Stephen Drew as a potential free agent acquisition for the Yankees. While Drew has posted a solid .249/.331/.436 line this season and would be a good fit for Yankee Stadium, signing with the Yanks would place him in a delicate situation. "Would Drew — or anyone else — want to sign on as the guy pushing an unwilling Jeter into a role where he would DH mostly and play short only occasionally?" Harper asks.
- The Mets covet the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, and one executive familiar with the Rockies' thinking tells Harper they're likely to listen to offers for the star outfielder. However, a trade appears unlikely, as the Rockies want young position players and aren't interested in what the Mets can offer in that regard. Colorado may also consider offers for Troy Tulowitzki, Harper says.
- CC Sabathia's 4.90 ERA would be the second-worst mark in Yankees history by a pitcher to surpass the 200 inning threshold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. “I have always been bend-but-don’t-break, and I have broken a lot this year,” Sabathia commented. Sherman says Sabathia has adjusted his delivery in order to better stay on top of the ball so that his fastball does not cut toward the middle of the plate.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson is on track to become the first GM in club history to post increasing loss totals in each of his first three seasons from the team he inherited, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. The team clinched its fifth consecutive losing season in dropping today's game with the Marlins.
- The Phillies have no plans for recent Cuban acquisition Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to pitch competitively this season, Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer says. The team sees Gonzalez sliding into the third slot of their 2014 rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. "We just want to see where he's at," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "We want to get him assimilated into our organization and be ready to go for spring training."
- The Red Sox have yet to broach the subject of Jon Lester's next contract, GM Ben Cherington revealed in an interview with WEEI.com. "We just feel like those issues are better left for after we’re done playing, which hopefully is several weeks from now," Cherington said. We recently heard that the Sox are "all but certain" to pick up their $13MM option on Lester for next year.
Expect to hear a lot of rumors about the Cardinals' shortstop vacancy until Opening Day and beyond, as earlier today GM John Mozeliak left the door open for the team to pursue outside help if the Cards' internal options aren't up to the task. Here are the latest items about the 11-time World Series champions...
- The Cardinals haven't called the Rockies about Troy Tulowitzki, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets, though such a call would've probably been moot since Colorado has no interest in trading its star shortstop. If St. Louis does acquire a new shortstop, I'd suspect it would be a player who comes at a much lower price than Tulowitzki, who is owed $144MM through the 2020 season.
- Mozeliak suggested to reporters (including Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that both the Cards and right-hander Adam Wainwright would like to resolve discussions regarding a possible contract extension by Opening Day. Talks are ongoing, according to Mozeliak, who said yesterday that he’s optimistic about reaching a deal.
- Losing both Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal for the season could turn 2013 into a transition year for the Cardinals, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The Redbirds' biggest asset is its young pitching, but with the team still figuring out the best roles for its young arms, Gordon thinks the Cardinals might prefer to keep those pitchers for the short term rather than trade them for a shortstop any time soon.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post
Four years ago today, the Rockies avoided arbitration with third baseman Garrett Atkins by agreeing to a one-year, $7.05MM contract making him the second-highest paid player on the team behind only Todd Helton. The Rockies, however, didn't get their money's worth. After averaging a slash line of .301/.363/.480 the previous four seasons, Atkins' 2009 numbers dropped to .226/.308/.342 and was non-tendered that winter. He played just 44 games with the Orioles in 2010 before being released midseason and hasn't seen any MLB action since. Let's take a look at the news and notes coming out of the Mile High City today:
- Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Troy Tulowitzki was the subject of several trade rumors this offseason. "It was a weird thing -- the first time I had ever had any trade rumors," Tulowitzki told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "Any normal person is going to start to think, 'What if this? What if that?' But I can't control those things. Whatever happens, happens, but I definitely want to stay."
- Jason Giambi has received calls from a few teams and is working out five days a week, as he is determined to continue his playing career, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
- Better health of the pitching staff and improved defense are two reasons why fans should have hope for the Rockies, Renck writes within the same article. Renck cites Jhoulys Chacin as a prime candidate for a bounceback year because of his strong finish last season, his new two-year, $6.5MM contract, and a repaired relationship with the front office.
- Renck feels right-hander Chris Volstad will receive a long look in Spring Training, especially with his former Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley now working for the Rockies as their new pitching coordinator (via Sulia).
- Several teams asked the Rockies about Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, reports ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link). The Rockies told clubs that both Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki weren't available, having not changed their stance from last month about trading their top two stars.
- The Dodgers' negotiations with Ryu Hyun-Jin will go right down to Sunday's deadline, a team source tells ESPN.com's Jim Bowden (Twitter link). Los Angeles will lose negotiating rights with the Korean left-hander if a deal can't be worked out by Sunday. The two sides were thought to be far apart on Tuesday, though the Dodgers and agent Scott Boras had exchanged offers and were continuing talks.
- The Padres are using their bullpen depth, infield depth and Jesus Guzman as trade bait, says Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of his most recent chat with readers.
- Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan told reporters (including Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News) that they looking for, respectively, a fourth guaranteed year and the most expensive possible contract, and were both happy that the Giants met their desires. “I know my age,” Scutaro said. “I was looking for the best contract. This might be my last one. When (the Giants) made the best offer, it was very exciting.”
While the Red Sox and Marlins have both completed major payroll-clearing deals over the last few months in order to rebuild, the last-place Rockies have no plans to deal either Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Rockies want to keep their offense strong and, while the team is desperate for pitching, their specific need for controllable groundball pitchers who can handle Coors Field leaves them with a limited number of trade options, even for All-Star talents like Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.
Both players signed major extensions within a three-month span in late 2010-early 2011 and appeared to be installed as franchise cornerstones for the next decade. Tulowitzki had already been locked up through 2013 but his new contract guarantees him $144MM through the 2020 season, which includes a $4MM buyout of a $15MM team option for 2021. Gonzalez is still owed $71MM through the 2017 campaign on the seven-year, $80MM extension he signed before the 2011 season. Neither player has no-trade protection, though they will each receive a bonus (Tulowitzki $2MM, Gonzalez $1MM) if they are dealt.
Besides the salaries, both players carry some red flags. Tulowitzki missed the last four months of the 2012 season due to a groin injury, while Gonzalez's success could be due to his hitter-friendly home ballpark --- Gonzalez has a career 1.054 OPS at Coors Field and just a career .735 OPS on the road.
Ramon Hernandez ruptured his left distal hamstring tendon and will miss the remainder of the season, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. The 36-year-old will undergo surgery next week after playing in just 52 games. Here are more Rockies-related notes from Troy Renck of the Denver Post...
- Hernandez would probably have been an offseason trade candidate, Renck writes (on Twitter). Completing a deal will now be more challenging because of Hernandez’s injuries and age. Hernandez will earn $3.2MM in 2013, the final season of the two-year, $6.4MM contract he signed last offseason.
- The Rockies need pitching, but Renck repeated that he wouldn't trade Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez for arms (Twitter link). It's risky to assume pitching performances will translate in Denver, as Renck notes.
Stephen Strasburg looked almost human tonight, allowing two runs in six innings against the Astros to raise his ERA all the way up to 0.95 for the season. Strasburg still picked up the win in a 6-3 Nationals victory and, as a bonus, got a hilarious new nickname for his curveball, courtesy of MLB Network's Jerry Manuel.
Here are a few odds and ends from around the Majors...
- Matt Cain figures Cole Hamels' next contract (whether with the Phillies or on the free agent market) will earn the southpaw more than Cain's recent extension with the Giants, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "History-wise, lefties have always brought more than a righty," Cain said. "It's just the nature of the game." Cain said he was happy to sign his extension and remain in San Francisco for the long-term as free agency is "not always a beautiful thing."
- The Athletics' stadium issue and possible move to San Jose will not be on the agenda at the next owners meetings, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Earlier today, Slusser reported that the A's were pushing to have the issue subjected to a vote of other owners so they could have the issue settled once and for all.
- ESPN's Buster Olney (via Twitter) thinks the A's could explore a multiyear contract with Brandon McCarthy. The right-hander has pitched very well in his time in Oakland, posting a 3.24 ERA and a 4.59 K/BB ratio in 28 starts. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes considered McCarthy as an extension candidate in February.
- The Rockies' starting pitching woes could be solved by three southpaw prospects --- Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
- Also from Renck, he notes that Troy Tulowitzki's six-year extension from the Rockies in 2010 drew criticism at the time, but now could be seen as a bargain in the wake of the mega-deals given to Albert Pujols and Joey Votto.
- The Reds are one of several preseason contenders off to a slow start, but Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News says it's far too early for fans to panic.
Here's a look at some items out of the National League West..
- The Giants offered Tim Lincecum at least $100MM over five years a couple months back, but it now it appears that the two sides are at least $75MM apart, with the right-hander looking for a seven- or eight-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- Jeff Moorad has withdrawn his application to be the controlling partner of the Padres, meaning that John Moores will own the team for the foreseeable future, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- Tom Krasovic of Inside The Padres runs down the particulars of what this means for the future of the club. Moorad will remain the Vice Chairman and CEO of the Padres while Moores will remain the majority owner of the team as he has since 1994-95. Krasovic also writes that MLB is likely to approve the 20-year TV deal between the Padres and FOX.
- Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez don't exactly see eye-to-eye with former teammate Ubaldo Jimenez on his dissatisfaction with the Rockies, writes Scott Miller of CBSSports.com. The pitcher said that he was upset with the club in part because Tulowitzski and Gonzalez received lucrative new deals following the 2010 season while he did not.
Six players signed deals worth $100MM or more last offseason and they've now completed one year since finalizing their respective deals. Here's a look at how baseball's newest $100MM players fared in 2011 (in order of contract value):
- Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, ten-year, $157.75MM extension - This deal, which was somewhat unexpected last offseason, is going as well as the Rockies could hope. Tulowitzki put together another tremendous season: .302/.372/.544 with 30 home runs at shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, seven-year, $154MM extension - Gonzalez led the American League in hits and nearly won the batting title in his return to the Junior Circuit. He posted a .338/.410/.548 line and hit 27 homers on his way to an MVP-caliber season. His seven-year extension officially kicks in next season, though.
- Carl Crawford, Red Sox, seven-year, $142MM contract - Crawford posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage, saw his stolen base total drop by 29 and hit fewer home runs, triples and doubles than he did during his final season in Tampa Bay. The Red Sox still owe him $128MM, so they have to find a way to turn their left fielder's career around.
- Jayson Werth, Nationals, seven-year, $126MM contract - Though Werth doesn't like the idea that 2011 was a lost season for him and the Nationals, there's no denying that his numbers fell off. He had a .232/.330/.389 line with 20 homers and 19 stolen bases.
- Cliff Lee, Phillies, five-year, $120MM contract - We knew Lee was good, but it would not have been fair to expect this kind of year: he posted a 2.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 232 2/3 innings.
- Ryan Braun, Brewers, five-year, $105MM extension - Braun could win the MVP after leading the league in slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994). He hit 33 homers and stole 33 bases, posted a career-high .397 on-base percentage and made his fourth consecutive All-Star team.
Crawford and Werth were sources of excitement for their respective teams when they signed free agent contracts and the outfielders have since become sources of concern. The other position players - Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Braun - have turned in MVP-caliber seasons, while Lee should be a top-three finisher in this year's NL Cy Young balloting.