The Orioles Should Trade for Troy Tulowitzki

Could Tulo be turning double plays in orange soon? - Justin Edmonds

Troy Tulowitzki has been one of the best players in baseball this season, though it might signal that this is the end of his run in Colorado. If the Rockies did decide to move the superstar shortstop, could the Orioles make a play for him?

The trade season always brings about some preposterous trade suggestions that would truly shock the baseball world should they occur. This is definitely one such suggestion. Here are the nuts and bolts of the trade that I think should happen:

The Trade

The Orioles receive

SS - Troy Tulowitzki

RP - Adam Ottovino

The Rockies receive

SP - Kevin Gausman

SP - Dylan bundy

2B/3B - Jonathon Schoop

1B - Christian Walker

So basically the Orioles are trading two top 25 prospects, another fringe top 100 prospect, and another B prospect for the second best position player in baseball and a reliever.

To put this trade together I went through dozens of incarnations with the O's sending various prospects to Colorado, even dabbling with including a third team in the San Diego Padres. Ultimately it came down to the fact that in order to get one of the best players in MLB a package of anything less than two top 25 prospects just wouldn't do.

Why the Orioles Should Do It

The Orioles are in first place in a surprisingly weak American League East and they can surely taste the playoffs at this point. This is, after all, the best spot they've been in in terms of playoff contention at this point in the season in a very long time. SB Nation MLB's Grant Brisbee outlined a handful of reasons why the O's should be optimisticdespite having a somewhat lackluster start to the season. Grant summarized it:

The Orioles came into the season with a lot of obvious talent, but only one of the expected stars is doing star things (Adam Jones). Yet they're here. They're the first-place Orioles, which is not only something we can say without giggling, but something we might get really used to.

Grant BrisbeeThe awful fortune of the first-place Orioles

Similarly Jerry Crasnick wrote about the O's being poised to take over the AL East recently, and he outlined a few potential trades that could make an impact. The one above wasn't one of them, but it would no doubt do the job of making the birds division favorites.

As of the morning of 7/9 the Orioles had a 53% chance of making the postseason according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, by far the best figure of any team in the AL East. Their chance of winning the division is nearly 43%, another astonishingly high figure considering they came into the season with just a 16% chance of making the playoffs.

Now may be the time for the Orioles, but why Tulowitzki? Why not a pitcher?

Well, a pitcher makes a lot of sense. However with both Jason Hammmel and Jeff Samardzija gone, the next best trade chip out there is David Price. It's unlikely the Rays would trade Price within the division, leaving the O's with even fewer options on the market. If the Orioles turn their attention to position players instead, they could do far worse than to go after one of the best infielders in all of baseball.

The Orioles do have JJ Hardy under contract, but that's a problem that could be easily solved. Not necessarily by trading Hardy, but by moving him over to second base while Tulo holds down his normal spot at shortstop. They would easily make one of the best defensive infields in baseball (Chris Davis, Hardy, Tulo, Machado from first to third) while likely getting solid production at the plate from each player.

Second base has been a black hole for the O's this season, producing a .239/.280/.329 triple slash line so far this season. Their combined 69 wRC+ is good for 25th best in baseball, making it a clear spot for potential upgrades for the club. There might be a slight learning curve, but it's conceivable that Hardy could make the transition to second base relatively easily given the fact that he's one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Why is Tulo a fit for the Orioles? That's a pretty easy question to answer given his .348/.440/.597 triple slash line. His wRC+ of 174 is good for second best in all of baseball behind Mike Trout. Basically offensively he's hitting 74% better than the average MLB hitter right now. All of that to go along with a very good glove as shortstop, as he's easily a top 5 defensive shortstop right now.

Tulowitzki is under contract through at least 2020 with a club option for the 2021 season. He'll make $20MM per year from 2015 - 2019, with a guarantee of $14MM in 2020 and a club option at $15MM in 2021 (with a $4MM buyout). There are other clauses in his contract worth noting including the fact that he can't be traded more than once and the fact that his 2020 and 2021 salaries could increase by $6MM per year based on performances. Overall though Tulowitzki is basically on a 5/$94MM contract with a $15MM club option for year 6 and a $4MM buyout. So the O's would be on the hook for at least $100MM over 6 seasons ($94MM in salary + $4MM buyout + $2MM trade bonus).

Tulowitzki would immediately become the highest paid player on the O's roster, but he would also be the best player on the roster. His 4.8 fWAR this season outpaces current O's leader Adam Jones by 1.2. His on base percentage would be a welcome improvement on a team that struggles mightily in that aspect of the game. Tulowitzki won't be cheap, but he'll be a huge boon to the Orioles' chances at making the playoffs and potentially winning the world series.

Adam Ottovino is a big part of this trade, though obviously not the key piece here. He's a capable reliever whose FIP has decreased in each professional season so far. The main reason for this is that he's worked to get his walks under control. His bad luck in the first few years of his career, especially on home runs, has bounced back making him a very solid reliever. The Orioles have a noted interest in relief arms, and Ottovino would give them some value from a guy that wouldn't just be a rental. For the O's, Ottovino fills a need without them having to make another trade to bring back relief help.

Why the Rockies Should Do It

The Rockies have a 0% chance of making the playoffs in 2014 according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, not exactly a surprise with them being 11.5 games out of first place through July 8th. This has lead to many media outlets to make the claim that the Rockies should move its greatest trade asset: Troy Tulowitzki.

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post noted that Tulo's trade value may never be higher than it is right now as he's in the middle of a career year for the Rockies. Saunders would describe the situation that the Rockies are in with the following:

But another losing season has changed the landscape. Tulo, at age 29, has shown that he's healthy although he sat out Friday and Saturday with groin tightness and leg injuries will always be a concern with his injury history. He is at the peak of his trade value. Now or never is drawing nearer if the Rockies are going to move him. His value might never be higher.

Patrick Saunders - Troy Tulowitzki's trade value may never be higher for Rockies

This is a perfect synopsis of the situation because Tulo is moving toward a portion of his deal where he won't net the Rockies multiple top prospects in a trade. Saunders' thoughts aren't easy for Rockies fans to hear, but they do seem valid. This prompted writers in other cities to wonder if Tulo was a fit for them. The idea of sending Tulo to the Yankees wasn't met with much excitement, but I think the Orioles are a much better fit asset-wise.

Earlier in the week Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post wrote that the trade winds swirling weren't bothering Rockies' stars Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, which is good because there would be many more to follow. Fangraphs was next to suggest that now was the time to move Tulowitzki with Mike Petriello laying out a case for doing so. Petriello lays out a few candidates for trade partners including both New York teams, Detroit, Seattle, and Boston as potential suitors.

The final piece to nail home the fact that now is the time to trade Tulo is Jon Heyman's piece that notes that he gave the Rockies the go-ahead to move him if it was in the best interest of the team and he could go to a contending team. Heyman notes:

Tulowitzki's message was said to be something along these lines: "I love it in Colorado. I'd like to be here. But if things (don't improve), and you can (trade) me to a winning situation I'm OK with it."

Jon Heyman - Tulowitzki gives subtle blessing to trade; Rockies intend to keep him

The Rockies and Tulowitzki had a good run. In total the club will have paid him roughly $40 million including his $2.3 million signing bonus from being drafted. For those $40 million the club has gotten 33.9 fWAR in the majors. Regardless of the $/WAR figure you prefer, there's pretty much no way to say that the Rockies haven't made out like bandits so far in terms of contract value. Next season though Tulo will be 30 and starts a run of being paid $20 million per season for the next four year. His value isn't as certain in those seasons, so moving on now might be the best way to maximize the club's value in return for the slugging shortstop.

So if we've established that the Rockies should trade Tulo, how does this return work for the Rockies?

SP - Kevin Gausman

Gausman is the first key piece of the trade, a solid MLB starter already who has shown the potential to be a front-end arm for any club. He has the potential for two plus pitches, and uses his fastball, slider, change combination to baffle hitters. Just about everyone has been high on Gausman as he soared through the O's farm system and is periodically helping the big league club this season. Both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America had very positive things to say upon Gausman's first call up to the majors. Personally I'm very high on Gausman, and have previously detailed how excellent he can be when he's on his game. If nothing else click through that link to see GIFs of Gausman's ridiculous split-change.

Going into the 2014 season Gausman was the O's consensus #1 prospect as Chris St. John identified here on Beyond the Box Score. Chris also compiled a consensus top prospects list, where Gausman ranked #16 in all of baseball.

SP - Dylan Bundy

Dylan Bundy is one of the most polarizing prospects in baseball because his talent level is immense, but he's still working back from Tommy John surgery just about a year ago. A recent scouting report from Tucker Blair at Baseball Prospectus noted that Bundy has the chance to have 2 grade 60 pitches, another grade 65 pitch, and a grade 70 pitch. If those grades do end up being where Bundy lands after working his way back to 100% from elbow surgery, that would be four plus pitches. If he reaches his ceiling, he'll be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Bundy was the O's #2 prospect going into the season, but he finished just a few points overall behind Gausman. That is a testament to his immense talent because he had yet to throw in a baseball game after his surgery at the time of the rankings. On the consensus MLB top prospects list, Bundy ranked just behind Kevin Gausman at 17th overall.

2B/3B - Jonathon Schoop

Pressed into early service with the Orioles, Schoop's underwhelming performance belies his true value as a prospect. Rather than talk about Schoop's potential I'll post a quote from Roch Kubatko's Orioles' blog with a scout's take on Schoop:

"Defensively, Schoop is going to be really solid no matter where they put him," said a scout from outside the organization. "He doesn't have great foot speed, which is probably why they have him at third base, but he handles everything there. He has plenty of arm. He can handle that or second base. And I've heard he can handle shortstop."

Schoop, the Orioles' minor league Player of the Year in 2011, batted .245/.324/.386 with 24 doubles, a triple, 14 homers and 56 RBIs in 485 at-bats at Bowie this summer.

"I talked to scouts about him all the time. I loved him at Bowie this year," the rival scout said earlier this week. "He's the guy everybody is intrigued by. To me, he looks like he's a little tired at this point. His hand speed at the plate looks a little down. I think that's why his batting numbers aren't quite as good as they might be.

"I think he has a ton of upside. From a batting standpoint, he's very young and raw, but when he's on, he has really good bat speed and really strong hands. The ball explodes off his bat. I saw that, and talked to other scouts who saw it. They're all very interested in what he's doing."

Roch KubatkoA rival scout talks about Jonathon Schoop

Going into the season Schoop was the O's #5 prospect, but the overall #88 prospect in all of baseball. Schoop has long been the best position prospect that the Orioles have, so his inclusion in this deal makes the return more than just pitching for the Rockies.

1B - Christian Walker

Walker is an interesting prospect to include in the deal for several reasons. Orioles Nation provides the following scouting report on Walker:

Solid approach at the plate and knows how to handle the bat – sweet swing; good bat path through the zone; hands and feet are quiet; sees a lot of pitches. There are questions about the power, and some concern that power will not translate to professional pitching. He has shown good gap power at times, but there are still questions about overall impact. Has always shown the ability to get on base and moves around the bases well for his size. If he finds the power stroke against professional pitching, he could push for time at the MLB level. Looks to be more of a platoon or bench bat at the time being, but a full season at AA Bowie should reveal more information regarding his overall ability.

Orioles Nation

Walker has really impressed in his second run at AA posting a .306/.368/.535 triple slash line for Bowie. In discussing a possible trade with other writers I reached out to a Rockies' writer to see what he thought the club would look for in a trade return. He said that the Rockies like guys that they think other teams are underrating, and Walker could potentially be that guy. In the right environment (Colorado) Walker could prove to be a very solid pickup for the Rockies.

Going into the season Walker was ranked as the #15 overall prospect in the Orioles' farm system.

Will it Happen?

The short answer is no. This move would basically send the message to Colorado fans that the team is in full-on rebuilding mode. The Orioles would also likely balk at the idea of moving two of their top prospects in a deal. While it would leave the O's with two solid prospects in Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez, it would be a huge blow to their rotation in 2015 and beyond. The move would help Colorado build around a young core, but it would essentially punt playoff contention for the next two or three seasons. That said, a rotation of Eddie Butler, Jonathan Gray, Kevin Gausman, and Dylan Bundy would be pretty awesome to see.

I'm sure many Rockies fans would balk at any trade of Tulo, and maybe even this return isn't enough in their eyes. Similarly O's fans would likely veto any deal of Gausman or Bundy that didn't net a #1 starter in return. There are dozens of reasons why this trade wouldn't work, but there are also several for why it makes sense.

If I was in either GM's shoes, I'm not sure I could make the trade as I've outlined it above. I would have to think about it for a long time though, as it does have the potential for significant benefit to both teams.

Special thanks to Rob Shields (O's) and Zach Fogg (Rockies) for giving me a sounding board for some of my trade proposals, and for helping me figure out what the final deal should look like.

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, and Baseball-Reference.

Jeff Long is a writer at Beyond The Box Score and Baltimore Sports and Life. You can follow him on Twitter at @BSLJeffLong.

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