The Pirates are among the teams with interest in free-agent infielder Troy Tulowitzki, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Tulowitzki was released by the Blue Jays earlier this month.
Pittsburgh skipper Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Tulo from the pair’s days with the Rockies, when Tulowitzki was among the game’s brightest young stars. At 34 years of age and coming off a season in which he did not play after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in both feet, Tulowitzki is a far cry from his days as an MVP candidate. However, he’d cost the Pirates (or any signing team) only the league minimum, as the Blue Jays are on the hook for the remainder of his salary in 2019-20. Presumably, there are at least a handful of clubs intrigued to see how Tulo would hold up now that he’s a ways removed from surgery and not playing his home games on the artificial turf at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
That said, it’s been quite some time since Tulowitzki was viewed as an above-average regular at the big league level. He hit just .249/.300/.378 through 266 plate appearances with the Blue Jays back in 2017 — his last taste of Major League work. Tulo made All-Star teams in both 2015 and 2016, though his overall offensive output in both of those seasons was roughly equivalent to a league-average hitter when weighting his production for the hitter-friendly environments he called home in Colorado and Toronto. Paired with his then-strong defensive contributions, that still made him quite a valuable asset, but you’d have to go all the way back to the 2014 season for the last time that Tulowitzki turned in a star-caliber performance.
The Pirates, of course, wouldn’t be expecting an All-Star showing from Tulowitzki, but rather the opportunity to buy low on a player who not long ago was viewed as a premier big league talent. If Tulowitzki can function even as an average regular in the infield, that’d be a steal at a league-minimum rate. And the Pirates, it should be noted, are facing uncertainty in the infield.
[Related: Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]
Adam Frazier impressed last year in semi-regular work at second base, but shortstop is far less settled with Kevin Newman and Erik Gonzalez among the current options. Third base doesn’t offer much more stability, with Jung Ho Kang looking to re-establish himself following a DUI arrest in his native South Korea that cost him more than a season of action in the Majors. Meanwhile, Colin Moran, acquired in last winter’s Gerrit Cole swap, didn’t exactly take the third base job and run with it.
While Tulo wouldn’t offer any more certainty than most of those options in the wake of a lost season, his agent has indicated his client’s willingness to play either second base or third base in 2019 (link via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser), so he’d be an interesting depth option for the Pittsburgh organization to add at a minimal cost.