Why not Tulo?

The Mets have a hole at the shortstop position. Ask any Mets fan, pundit, blogger or media member.

I’ve heard that the Mets need to upgrade their offense, and the only place that is really an open spot to do so is at shortstop. Our infield is mostly set for the next year and we have an outfield that either provides quality defense or is manned by a veteran. We even have a catcher who should be a solid offensive weapon. So the offensive upgrade is at shortstop.

I had advocated for Hanley Ramirez. I still would have taken him, but the amount of money we would have signed him to and the fact that his days at shortstop were likely limited means it’s probably for the best we didn’t throw money at him.

From there we had Asdrubal Cabrera, who had a really good year a few years ago offensively and Jed Lowrie who was solid. Neither looked like great defensive players.

So why not Troy Tulowitzki. There are three points against him; 1. He costs a lot of money, 2. He is injury prone, 3. He would cost at least one top prospect and likely more.

The first point shouldn’t be an issue. Adding Tulowitzki’s contract would make the 2015 Mets expected payroll (including arbitration increases) at about $119 million. That would put the Mets almost dead in the center of team payrolls in 2015. The Mets would be on the hook for $20 million each year through 2019, when he’ll be 35.  Then one year of $14 million and an option year of $15 million or a $4 million buyout. So at least $118 million left (Not including bonuses and possibly $5 million contract escalators for the last two seasons.) Fangraphs had a unit of WAR (or a win) valued at about $6 million. Tulo last year earned 5.5 BWAR in about half a season of at bats (319). So in half a season he exceeded his $16 million 2014 season salary by $17 million (6 $/WAR x 5.5 WAR = $33 million). If we were to get that same production, even if it were stretched out over the whole season instead of just half, we’d still have his contract more than paid for. The 2013 season saw Tulo earn 5.3 WAR over 446 innings. He’d still be worth $20 million a year. The 2012 season was Tulo’s worst gathering 0.4 WAR over 181 at bats, which by the 2014 value if a win would be $2.4 mil. A bad break that would be mitigated by the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

So in answering why Tulo seems like he’d be worth the money, I pretty much answered the point about injury. Tulowitzki played in an average of 107 games per season over his 9 year career (117 per season if you eliminate his 26 games in a late call up in 2006 as a season). It’s still more than half the games per season, but ideally you’d like to see him somewhere around 140-160. However, he’s averaged a 4.7 WAR (not counting his 2006 call up). Every season, except for lost years in 2012 (0.4 WAR) and 2008 (0.6) and the 2006 cup of coffee (-0.4), Tulowitzki has been one of the top three shortstops in WAR in Major League Baseball. Tulowitzki’s current hip injury is a little scary for a player at such a mobile position, but the Royals’ Alex Gordon and the Denver Bronco’s Wes Welker have come out of the torn labrum surgery fine, so there is hope he will be a good player upon returning. I mean aren’t we hoping for the same from Matt Harvey.

As for the prospect cost, that’s where red flags start popping up for me. In terms of an offensive upgrade, only three other players can hold a candle to Tulowitzki in recent years, one is the aforementioned Hanley Ramirez, who projects to be a left fielder sooner than later. Another is Jhonny Peralta, who actually led MLB last year in WAR for a shortstop. The Mets could have gotten him but said he was too expensive. In terms of $/WAR he made $34.8 million of his four-year, $53 mil. contract in one season.  In the Harvey-less 2014, it would have been a less valuable year, but it could have been enough to get the Mets over .500. The last possible offensive upgrade would be Ian Desmond, who the Mets could have had.  Desmond could have been had by sending two top prospects, likely including Noah Syndergaard to the Tampa Bay Rays while assuring that the Washington Nationals received Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. In this deal the Mets would get one of the best shortstops, but only for one year. The Nationals would get a good short stop and also one of the best ss/2b/lf/etc. in baseball. In fact if that trade went through, the Nationals would have ended up with more WAR based on the previous year’s total.

I would take Desmond, but only with 3-4 years of control.  While Tulo is a big expense, at least we’d know that we’d be getting six years of control of a top player after we traded 2-3 top prospects and an MLB player.

So here’s to hoping for a Tulo trade or Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada combining for a positive WAR.

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