Yesterday brought nearly thirty transactions and rumors to the MLB Trade Deadline stream on SB Nation's stream of articles, but foremost are two very important trades that directly impact the Rays' 2015 season at a minimum, and maybe more.
The biggest news of the night came past midnight on the eastern coast, with the Toronto Blue Jays acquiring Troy Tulowitzki. The superstar short stop is under team control through 2021, so the Rays will have to get used to pitching to him quickly.
Although, as friend Nick Stellini asked right after the news broke, "Can Tulo pitch?" Because the big need on the Blue Jays was not short stop, Jose Reyes had that on lock down ever since the great Miami fire sale. All signs were pointing to Michael Fiers on the Toronto hotline, but in my opinion that means talks for adding a starter weren't going great. So instead of upgrading pitching, they've added a tick more run prevention in a better glove, and upgraded the offense for years to come.
Tulowitzki's current 108 wRC+ is a tad below his totals of 171 and 141 in the previous two seasons, but is far and above Reyes's 95 wRC+ so the effect is immediately obvious. Then when you think about the fire sale trade that got Reyes to Toronto in the first place...
Marlins got Hechavarria for Reyes. Jays got Tulo for Reyes. /drinksbleach— Ehsan Kassim (@Ehsan_Kassim) July 28, 2015
Could Toronto have made a steal?
Tulo got traded in a down year, along side resurgent 42-years young LaTroy Hawkins, and the cost was Jose Reyes and three fresh arms -- Jeff Hoffman (Top-100 arm, recovering from TJ), Miguel Castro (Top-10 in system), and Jesus Tinoco (Top-20 in system). Yes, please get all three of those heat-dealing kids out of my division. I'm not sure how the Mets couldn't meet that ask, maybe it had something to do with Tulo's $98M contract, but this is about the Blue Jays.
And the Blue Jays are stacked.
The team that has scored the most runs in baseball will now score even more runs, and will be doing so with Tulo around for a good while. Dave Cameron applauded the strategy of adding to strengths in his write up late last night, and makes an excellent point about why the deal should help a team with loaded offense like Toronto succeed:
when modeling team run scoring, rather than just taking individual player's linear weights and adding them together; in a good line-up, the whole really is greater than the sum of the individual parts, because good hitters create more opportunities for other good hitters to turn their production into runs. And because players tend to hit better with men on base than the bases empty, a good hitter can have a positive impact on his teammates performances as well, further increasing the non-linear value of adding a good hitter to a team already strong in run scoring.
So when you see comments about the Blue Jays not needing Troy Tulowitzki because scoring runs wasn't the team's problem, ignore them. There are no diminishing returns to scoring more runs
The best offense in baseball, by runs scored, might just be able to cover up all those pitching weaknesses by scoring even more runs. It's the inverse of the Rays, who use run prevention and keep emphasizing quality pitching to keep that run prevention going when the offense averages three runs per game. When Tampa Bay deals for a better defensive catcher, and forgoes the offense, they too are improving strengths. We would do well to remember that when Rene Rivera is at the plate.
I saw some twitter chatter along the way that said 30-year old Tulo wouldn't be as good away from Coors field, essentially saying not to worry, but that seems preposterous. His career road OPS is above .800, which already qualifies him to be one of the best short stops ever. The Rays will have a formidable opponent in Tulo, just as they have in Bautista, Encarnacion, and Donaldson.
There isn't a great approach to fending off a perennial MVP candidate, even one who typically plays less than 150 games per year due to injury, and will now have to play on turf. If I'm Toronto I do everything to keep him on the dirt, and remove that astroturf between the bases. You want Tulo healthy. He is bar none the best short stop in baseball, and given the years he has yet to play might continue that trend.
Tulo is prone to four weeks a year, early in the season where he bats something like .200, but should always be a formidable threat. He generally walks at a ten percent clip, and strikes out only about 16% of the time. This year those numbers are more like 7 and 20, but few think his current batting talent will fail to reach his career avg. of 124 wRC+ in the near future.
The hope for the Rays this year is that Tulo continues his slump. That the turf bounces are awkward for him. That his new environment takes some adjusting, personally and with the bat. Because down the road, Tulo only looks to be a problem for the Tampa Bay Rays.