There’s been rumors of some sort going around the interwebs (from notable sources too, including the Rockies beat reporter for the Denver Post, Troy Renck), and basically the gist of them is this: the Rockies are considering/ may have had the drunken idea of moving Troy Tulowitzki off of the shortstop position. Rumors have also been flying around about a potential offseason trade involving Tulo, ideally one which would bring back something resembling a big league starter, because the Rockies currently have absolutely none of those lying around. The second idea isn’t so bad because the Rockies entered the season with Jamie Moyer slated as 3rd in their rotation. He didn’t even make it through the whole season before being handed his release papers. That first idea though? That one’s absolutely nuts, and here’s a couple of excellent reasons why.
1) Tulowitzki is only a year removed from ranking as the best offensive player at his position, bar none.
From 2009 to 2011, Tulowitzki put up numbers that no other shortstop in Major League Baseball even got close to approaching. He posted an elite OPS (on-base + slugging) of at least .900 in each of the 3 seasons. Only one other shortstop accomplished that feat even once, Hanley Ramirez in 2009. In fact, if you take a look at all of baseball history, only 26 shortstops have ever posted an OPS of over .900, and only Alex Rodriguez (7), Honus Wagner (7), and Ernie Banks (5) have more seasons with an elite OPS at that level.
If that’s not enough, consider this. The average shortstop in 2012 has hit .255/.307/.377 with 11 homers and 56 RBI. Over the course of his entire career Tulowitzki is hitting .292/.364/.504 with an average of 28 homers and 102 RBI per 162 games. If you’re a fan of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Tulowitzki accumulated 17.4 WAR from 2009-2011, 7.3 wins more than the next closest player, Marco Scutaro. The offensive difference in the league average or even the 2nd best shortstop and Tulo is astounding, which is reason enough not to move one of the most talented players in baseball off of his favorite position.
2) Outside of 2012, Tulowitzki has been one of the most consistent players in baseball.
From 2009 to 2011, he was remarkably consistent on offense, putting up a batting average between .297-.315, an on-base percentage around .375 and a slugging percentage around .550. For any baseball player those are All-Star caliber numbers, but at shortstop position, that kind of production can get you into the Hall of Fame. Tulo totaled at least 27 homers each year and 90+ RBIs per season, both of which rank at the top of the list among shortstops. Tulowitzki will only be 28 next season, which means that there is still plenty of All-Star caliber baseball left to be played.
3) In addition to being THE elite offensive shortstop in the game, Tulowitzki also has one of the finest gloves in the league.
It’s not just all about the offense with the Rockies shortstop like it is with some other players. Tulowitzki has legitimately good range, soft hands, and he possesses one of the 2 or 3 strongest arms at his position in the league. He won the National League Gold Glove award in 2010 and 2011, and advanced defensive metrics ranging from defensive runs saved to total zone runs love him, consistently ranking Tulo near or at the top of the league. In fact, in every year but one from 2007 to 2011, Tulowitzki averaged more plays in the field per game than any other shortstop in the National League, a testament to his pre-pitch positioning and range. A player at 3rd base will never be as valuable to a defense as a shortstop, because, plain and simple, he isn’t involved in as many plays.
His defense, more than any other reason, should be why Colorado decides to leave Tulowitzki at short and on the roster. Teams like Seattle will literally shoot themselves in the foot on offense by throwing away at-bats on a guy like Brendan Ryan because he plays high-quality defense. Tulo offers all that and much, much more. His offense will play anywhere on the diamond, but the fact that you can put him at short, where the average line this year is .255/.307/.377, and not lose anything on defense is incredible.
Yes, I know that his contract runs until 2021 and includes another $150 million on it. That’s enough reason to trade him if the exact right offer comes around, one that will give the Rockies multiple elite pitching prospects. But unless that happens Tulowitzki is a damn good all around player whose injury history isn’t all that checkered, and he has the type of bat that can carry a lineup over the course of a season. Once he fully recovers, you can count on Troy Tulowitzki regaining his throne as the best shortstop in the MLB.