After what seemed like an entire holiday weekend of Troy Tulowitzki trade talk in the Denver papers, spurred by comments the shortstop made last week, Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday that it would not be shocking to see the Rockies' franchise player request a trade this winter. At age 29, Tulowitzki may be getting tired of a Rockies franchise that is spinning its wheels. As he said, he wants to be some place where he has a chance to win every year and the Rockies are currently mired in a downward spiral that has once again sent them hurtling towards the NL West basement. While the Mets are only a few games better than Colorado, adding a player like Tulowitzki would go a long way towards helping turn things around in New York. Combined with David Wright, Tulowitzki would bring star power to the Mets' offense and balance their up and coming pitching staff. If it comes to pass that he requests a trade and the Rockies make their cornerstone available, the Mets have to make a serious attempt at pursuing him and I will not accept any excuses from them.
Let's start with the huge elephant in the room here – the Mets financial situation. As many have speculated and as most of the facts have pointed to in the recent past, the Mets' ownership group appears to be short on money. Payroll has drastically fallen since 2011 and even with Sandy Alderson saying that the onus for this falls on his shoulders, it's almost impossible to believe him. The GM is not going to go against the men who employ him, especially when they continue to go on record saying that they have money and would be willing to spend more of it on "the right player". Tulowitzki is signed through 2020 at a price of $20 million per year for the next 5 years before dipping to $14 million in the final season. No doubt it's a large sum of money but for a player of this caliber, it's a fair price and Tulowitzki would likely get more than this if he were on the free agent market this winter.
So this is where I'm going to hold Alderson and Jeff Wilpon at their words. If the Mets are seriously free of financial encumbrances, as they say, and they are willing to expand payroll for the "right player", then there is no more "right player" potentially available on the market than Troy Tulowitzki. In an MLB environment where offensive totals continue to slip year after year, Tulowitzki is hitting .348/.440/.597 this season and is a career .299/.374/.516 hitter. This is the type of superstar talent that the Mets cannot let get away from them because this type of player just is not often available. The fact that he plays a position in which the Mets still have a need for improvement, despite the recent uptick in play from Ruben Tejada, is just delicious icing on the cake. If Tulowitzki becomes available and the Mets have the trade chips to entice the Rockies, the Mets must be willing to take on Tulowitzki's salary in order to facilitate a deal. If we're to believe what the braintrust has fed us, then there should be no excuses and the Mets should be willing to expand payroll.
Here's where, I'm guessing, you begin to point out some of Tulowitzki's faults. "He's been injury prone!", "he'll cost a lot in talent!", "he makes a lot of money and is signed through age 36!". There's no denying these points. They're all true but by focusing on the negatives here, we completely gloss over the positives, namely the fact that this is the best shortstop in Major League Baseball and when he's on, he's a legitimate superstar and MVP candidate. This is a player that contributes on both sides of the ball. He's a star hitter who can hit for average, power, and get on base at a high clip. On the defensive side he's a Gold Glover, and not in the Derek Jeter mold. He's a legitimate plus glove with a cannon for an arm. While the risks are apparent, the reward for a player of this caliber appears to be exponentially larger than the risk.
Since arriving to the Mets organization in late 2010, Sandy Alderson's front office has been incredibly cautious in most facets of player acquisition and development. In fairness to them, they've done a strong job of building up the farm system and developing their prospects thus far. While caution is certainly warranted, you also can't be afraid to take a calculated risk or make a bold move. You certainly do all of your homework but in the end, you have to bet on the talent. Betting on a talent like Tulowitzki, even with the past injury issues, is what helps you move from also-ran to legitimate contender in a hurry. Unless the Angels suddenly decide to put Mike Trout on the trade block or the Marlins dangle Giancarlo Stanton, you're unlikely to find a more perfect and talented player on the market in the near future. If Tulowitzki is on the market, this is likely going to be the Mets greatest chance to acquire a star and game-changing position player.
At the end of the day, acquiring a player of Tulowitzki's caliber cures many ills: he greatly improves the team's up the middle defense. He adds a powerful bat to the middle of the lineup that can hit behind David Wright and allow Curtis Granderson to continue to hit leadoff, where he has thrived. Last but certainly not least, the acquisition of a superstar the caliber of Tulowitzki would be a huge, glaring sign to the fanbase that the Mets are back and ready to win games. This could be the Mike Piazza or Gary Carter trade of the Sandy Alderson era, the piece that serves to counterbalance the team's improving pitching and help to vault them right into playoff contention in the NL East. Bring in a star and suddenly, the Mets have some credibility. Considering how disenfranchised the Mets fanbase has become over the last half dozen years, this is the type of move that would help to restore the broken trust between fans and ownership, and bring a new level of excitement to Citi Field (along with, most importantly, more talent).
What would it take to acquire Tulowitzki from the Rockies? Quite frankly, it's going to take a lot and I'm not afraid to admit that. The package of young players going to Colorado is likely to hurt for those of you who avidly follow the club's minor league affiliates. But that's how you go about acquiring a franchise cornerstone type player. The Mets have built a strong farm system in order to help the big league team and one way to do that is to trade prospects for established big leaguers in order to fill holes. David Wright and Curtis Granderson are not getting any younger and the young pitching is accruing big league experience, meaning that the Mets are officially on the clock. They have to make their move soon and they don't have a position player of this caliber in their farm system and ready to contribute in the near future. So while it may hurt to part with a Noah Syndergaard, a Jacob deGrom, a Brandon Nimmo or Rafael Montero or Kevin Plawecki, just to throw out some names, it's time for the Mets to try to compete and build up the big league offense. Personally, I'd be more than willing to give up whatever it takes to acquire a star in his prime who plays a position of need, like Tulowitzki does.
There are risks to be sure but in my view, I'd rather take this risk than put my money on an inferior player on next year's free agent market. JJ Hardy will be 32 by the end of the year and has all of 3 home runs this season. Jed Lowrie is hitting .231/.319/.339 and before last season in Oakland was supremely injury prone, not to mention that with the A's trading Addison Russell last week, they have a hole of their own at shortstop to fill. Asdrubal Cabrera isn't anything special offensively at .244/.306/.387 and his defense gets consistently negative marks by the advanced metrics. Finally, Hanley Ramirez is a star caliber player but is he going to leave the Dodgers? Even if he does, the Yankees have a glaring hole at shortstop next year and without a strong farm system, they can throw money at Ramirez on the market to reel him in. Outside of Ramirez, none of these players are game changers and the Mets could certainly use one.
Of course, this entire post is contingent on something that hasn't happened yet. Troy Tulowitzki has to request a trade and the Rockies have to oblige and shop him around. If this happens, though, there are no excuses for the Mets not to be heavily involved. They have the need for a shortstop and a middle of the order hitter, they have the prospects to trade from their deep farm system, they don't have much money committed on their payroll as a big market team should be able to spend more than $85 million, and they are on the clock with a need to vault themselves into contention based on the composition of their roster. Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki would go a long way towards helping them accomplish that goal and the Mets cannot pass up this opportunity. It's time for them to be bold.