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Blue Jays acquire Troy Tulowitzki, boost best AL offense instead of starting pitching

There's some new #RE2PECT in the AL East.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Very late Monday night/very early Tuesday morning the Toronto Blue Jays and the Colorado Rockies worked together on what could be the blockbuster deal of the 2015 trade deadline.

The Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins while the Rockies received Jose Reyes and three pitching prospects-Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco. This will definitely be known as 'the 'Tulowitzki trade' so let's start there.

Having a bit of a down year, Tulowitzki has still generated 1.2 fWAR for his team. Of course, it's not wholly fair to say he is having a down year when he's coming off back-to-back 5 win seasons. During the previous two seasons his wRC+ numbers were unbelievably 141 and 171 all while playing shortstop. It would be remiss not to mention this, but if Tulowitzki didn't get injured last season, there is a very real chance he would have won the National League MVP. In 2015, he has quietly had a .351 wOBA and 108 wRC+ season while playing in 87 of his team's 97 games. He was Beyond the Box Score's consensus #11 player to have going into this season, and he joins a team that didn't typically need him, but it's hard not to want Tulo on your team.

As for the rest of this season, Tulo is projected for about 1.7 fWAR. Reyes, whom Tulo is replacing, is projected for 0.9 fWAR. This is a definite improvement this year and for the future; Reyes is just a bit older and has never come close to matching the offensive output from his 2011 season in which he had a 142 wRC+.

What about that slow start? It tracks closely with his line drive rate, which has fluctuated quite a bit throughout his career, and his BABIP.

Month LD% BABIP wRC+
Apr 27.0% 0.361 114
May 11.1% 0.328 65
June 23.1% 0.446 153
July 16.0% 0.217 87

Tulo's performance this season has fluctuated wildly in step with the indicators that can fluctuate wildly in small, arbitrary samples such as monthly splits. Other indicators, specifically walk rate and strikeout rate, tell a different story - Tulo's underlying indicators are looking good.

tulo moving average

Tulo's walk rate has an upward trend as the season has gone on. After fluctuating a bit, his strikeout rate seems to have settled down around 20 percent. He's walking more and striking out more than his career numbers currently, so they kind of balance out. Tulo just needs to get his ball-impacting ability back. His ISO, BA / SLG on fly balls, and HR/FB have all moved in the wrong direction this year. Those are much more volatile indicators than walk rate and strikeout rate, but below is another 14 game moving average, this time for ISO.

tulo iso moving average

Tulo had a straight downward trend up until about game 43. He has since raised his ISO back up and has fluctuated around the .200 ISO level. It seems like Tulo has some power back. If Tulo is walking, striking out, and hitting with power all like normal, then we shouldn't worry too much about his other fluctuating indicators.

One aspect that may be something, or it may be nothing, is Tulo's injury history combined with playing on turf. Brett Lawrie, after his trade to Oakland, noted something about being excited to get off the turf and hopefully stay healthy. Already injury prone, Tulo would not do well in Toronto if there is a real link between turf and injury. Josh Donaldson seems to be doing fine. Jose Bautista seems to be doing fine. It might be something to watch rather than get into too deeply.

LaTroy Hawkins is an added bonus coming in for the Blue Jays. Hawkins will help stabilize a bullpen that has seen its ups and downs. Mostly due to overwork thanks to a poor rotation, the Blue Jays bullpen is actually 14th in the major leagues and 3rd in the AL East behind the powerhouse Yankees and Orioles. With Roberto Osuna the current closer for the team, Hawkins could have some saves on their way, but will most likely be the setup man for John Gibbons' club.

On the other side of the deal, the Rockies have acquired Jose Reyes. Reyes has actually been worth the same amount of wins as Tulo (1.2 fWAR), however, he has played in only 69 games. Furthermore, he has been a below average bat thus far with a 95 wRC+. He is due $22 million for the next two seasons with an additional $22 million club option in 2018 ($4 million buyout). It's hard to believe a team like the Rockies taking on salary at this time, but their focus must have been on getting the right prospects for the star shortstop.

On the prospect part of the deal, the Rockies acquired the 9th pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Jeff Hoffman. A right-handed pitcher who was rumoured to be ranked number one on a lot of boards, Hoffman's stock fell a bit after injuring his UCL. Seemingly recovered now, Hoffman's fastball is plus to plus-plus with a plus curveball as well. He pitched well in 56 innings at High-A before getting the call to AA where he has dominated in his VVVSSS (that's very, very, very small sample size) 11.2 innings with a 2.38 FIP.

Colorado also pulled in the hard throwing Miguel Castro. A surprise out of spring training to make the team, when Castro took the mound for the first time he became the youngest player ever to pitch in a Blue Jays uniform. However, that record was short-lived and was broken the next day by Roberto Osuna. After getting four saves in six opportunities and struggling with the longball, Castro was optioned to AAA where he has continued to struggle with a 6.07 FIP. Still, his 98+ mph fastball as a 20 year old is too tantilizing not to give a few shots in the majors.

Jesus Tinoco is the final prospect acquired by Colorado. Tinoco is a 20-year-old starter in A ball right now. Over 15 starts and 81.1 innings, Tinoco has a 19.3 percent strikeout rate, 6.2 percent walk rate, a 3.54 ERA, and a 2.76 FIP. A chat with Clint Longenecker on Baseball America noted that Tinoco has a good fastball and changeup combination. His third pitch is an inconsistent 12-6 curveball.

Hoffman and Castro have the right stuff to succeed if called upon but will certainly benefit from a system that won't rush them. Tinoco might be a bit of a wild card as the one farthest from the majors, but it looks like he has a lot going for him. The Toronto Blue Jays fans have no excuse to bring up the fact that their team drafted Ricky Romero over Troy Tulowitzki in the 2005 MLB Draft anymore.

One thing that has worried the Toronto fanbase is the 'window of opportunity' for being a competitive team. With their star players aging past their prime, many fans -- somewhat rightfully -- think 2016 could be their last opportunity for a World Series in the near future. By acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Anthopoulos should quiet the herd.

With Josh Donaldson, the left side of the infield is set for the foreseeable future. And, if Devon Travis can continue his amazing rookie campaign, the entire infield could be set if Jose Bautista converts to a first baseman in his twilight seasons.

If -- and that's a big if -- the Blue Jays starting rotation regresses toward their mean (that is, stops pitching so terribly), this team could definitely find themselves at the top of their division for 2015 and beyond.

. . .

Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii, or reach him at

Kevin Ruprecht is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royals Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.