Olde Man’s Tavern: Tulo’s Place


Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

And with that evolves the announcement that the Colorado Rockies have extended their star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki until 2020, Denver should now be called Tulo’s Place in every way. He now owns Denver for a decade.

When the Rockies faced the media to proclaim their desire to keep Tulo as a member of the Rockies for so long, many criticized the extension. The burning question was this: Why wrap up a guy for that length of time? And many furthered the line of questioning. Didn’t the Rockies, in essence, get burned by the contracts of Mike Hampton and Todd Helton?

The answer to the Hampton and Helton deals are yes. Helton (9 years/$141.5 million) lived up to his deal over the first half (roughly), but injuries have somewhat limited his effectiveness over two of the last three seasons. The Rockies are also on the hook for $19.1 million due Helton for the 2011 season. A decent return. Not what you had hoped for, but decent.

The Hampton signing of 2 years/$20 million never panned out. Hampton went 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA during his time in Denver. Defend that one. I don’t know of anyone that can to be honest. Very little return on that investment.

But when you dole out big bucks, there’s always a risk that performance won’t match the dollars involved.

The critique of the Tulowitzki deal is justifiable especially when you consider the Helton and Hampton situations. Not so much with Helton, but extremely so with Hampton. When you begin to read ESPN’s Rob Neyer and his account of the deal, you think he’s on board with it. But he takes that turn you almost didn’t see coming.

"Still, the Rockies are assuming an enormous amount of risk here. As long as Tulowitzki’s healthy, he’ll probably be worth his salary for most of the next decade. If he’s playing well and the Rockies weren’t foolish enough to give him a strong no-trade clause, they can always trade him if it’s time to rebuild. If he’s not playing well, though? As Passan notes, the Rockies were exceptionally fortunate to reach the playoffs while carrying Todd Helton‘s salary. They might not be so fortunate again."

Ah, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! has his say on this, too. Passan begins his piece by berating Tulowitzki.

"What could’ve been, though. Oh, what could’ve been. On one hand, Tulowitzki played things safe. He was reasonable. And on the other, he lacked the fortitude to chase the greater glory that awaited him elsewhere. The money he could’ve gotten and the championships he could’ve won had he simply played out his current contract with the franchise that can’t help itself from taking a blade to its jugular."

OK. So you’re criticizing Tulo because he chose to stay “home” and play for the only organization he’s ever played for. Sure, you can say the greater glory is elsewhere, but maybe it’s not to Tulowitzki. Who’s to say the Rox won’t win a championship? And Passan doesn’t exactly come out and say this word for word, but could he be saying that Tulo is leaving money on the table? Sounds like that to me. And if that’s the case, it’s an unfair statement to make. Not every athlete wants max cash. They do have hearts, you know.

Take the deal from this approach. There’s something else involved that we rarely hear. It’s called loyalty…on both Tulo’s side and the Rockies side. As a whole, sports and loyalty don’t go hand-in-hand much these days. We constantly refer to baseball (and all other sports) as businesses. So I take this view. It’s loyalty in the workplace. What a sham, huh?

But Passan does create a valid point in which I do stroll to his side of the fence.

"So as the Rockies celebrate Tulowitzki’s new deal, they do so knowing that Ubaldo Jimenez is now likely to leave after the 2014 season. And that Carlos Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, is certain to do so. And that rather than waiting until 2014 to figure out where to spend their money, the team went all-in on a player who has missed significant time in two of his four seasons because of injuries."

The futures of CarGo and Jimenez do appear in jeopardy. I admit the first thing I thought of upon hearing the announcement of this deal was this exact point. And I offer up this question. Why wouldn’t the Rockies be able to keep all three? We all know that with the manner in which team operate are different. Isn’t it possible the Rockies are taking a different direction in assuring it’s young talent that the organization desires to maintain their services?

And opposing GM’s weighed in on this according to Passan. From his piece quoting one.

"“If there’s a guy to spend a quarter of your payroll on, he’s it,” said a GM of a low-revenue team, “but you just don’t spend a quarter of your payroll on anyone. Period.”"

So, if I get the gist of this, this deal is already being viewed as somewhat of an albatross. Can’t exactly say that yet. Oh, the odds do lean toward the albatross status. This deal very well could bite Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd in the ass if Tulo doesn’t perform or suffers serious injury, but I admire both Tulowitzki and O’Dowd for having the fortitude to make this bold statement and commitment toward one another. Again, it’s that loyalty thing.

Neyer and I agree that despite Passan’s assessment that the Rockies payroll isn’t exactly the largest in baseball, there’s no way that in 2014 their payroll would be $80 million. Inflation, maybe? Are we forgetting that Tulo can be dealt? Granted, the team getting Tulo’s services would then be “stuck” with him. (you’ll see why as you read on.) We know the Rockies are willing to take that chance despite the preceived risks. There’s no shame in that. Not one bit of shame.

Then again, maybe the Rockies are actually banking (and hoping) the Tulowitzki deal will achieve a different outcome from those of Helton and Hampton. There’s reason for such hope. Similar to the beginning that Helton had in Denver, Tulo has experienced excellent seasons. All you have to do is simply look at his offensive production.


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2010.

All Tulo has achieved in his 4+ season is a second place in the 2007 Rookie of the Year vote, an All-Star Game selection, two fifth place MVP season (’09 and ’10), a Gold Glove (’10) and a Silver Slugger (’10).

Keep this in mind as well. The big money won’t really kick in until the 2013 season. Tulo’s salary will be $5.5 million in 2011 and $8.25 million in 2012. After that, he hits eight figures a season. $10 million in 2013, $16 million in 2014, then $20 million from 2015 to 2019. Tulo will take a cut in pay for the 2020 season as his pay decreases to $14 million. In all, 10 years, $157.75 million according to The Biz of Baseball.

And there are caveats, too. a $2 million “fee” if Tulowitzki is traded. Tulo can only be traded once during the length of the deal. Incentives at the back end of the deal that could provide as much as $6 million in extra cash.

From the perspective of the Rockies fans, they can view Tulowitzki’s massive extension as a step in a bit of a different direction even though it’s a direction that appears like one already seen. It could actually be the approach that the franchise hasn’t necessarily taken before. A direction of greater heights…and greater expectations.

And if that is the case, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

What’s the old business saying…you gotta spend money to make money. Yet, the Rockies are being admonished for doing that. Screwy the way the world works when you’re viewed as one not to spend money and when you do, everybody’s inner Chicken Little emerges.