Aaron Boone is playing down Troy Tulowitzki’s recent slump, but the Yankees have legitimate reasons to be concerned.
When Troy Tulowitzki opened Spring Training with a home run against the Blue Jays, New York Yankees officials thought he might turn into the biggest free agency bargain of the offseason. But now that he’s only managed to scrape out three hits in his 17 preseason at bats, those same front office members should be worried about whether or not he can play meaningful action for the team in 2019.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone is doing the right thing by keeping an even keel regarding his shortstop’s Spring Training numbers. He recently told the media that Tulowitzki just needs “reps.” That’s a reasonable plan for a player who missed the entire 2018 campaign due to a heel injury. It’s very possible that extended action against quality pitching might be all Tulowitzki needs to improve his form.
Of course, it’s also possible that injuries have robbed Tulowitzki of his ability to be a quality major-league player. There’s a reason the Yankees were able to sign him to a minimum contract this offseason. No team was willing to break the bank on a guy who barely played for the Blue Jays during his tenure in Toronto. Tulowitzki may have selected the Yankees due to his desire to play for a World Series title, but he didn’t turn down a ton of money from any other franchise.
The key for the Yankees will be to act swiftly if Tulowitzki’s play doesn’t improve significantly. His previous talent level means it’s perfectly fine for the team to give him a healthy amount of regular season at-bats before concluding that he’s done, but general manager Brian Cashman and company must act definitively if he struggles to open the year. Waiting around on a 34-year-old to become a good player is a great way to dig an early season hole in the highly competitive AL East.
Remember, the Yankees don’t need to be married to the idea of starting Tulowitzki at shortstop. The franchise would prefer to leave Gleyber Torres at second, but he’s got the athleticism and arm strength to move back to his old position. If that happens, expect D.J. LeMahieu to become the starter at second base. Deploying his gold glove defense at the position certainly isn’t a poor backup plan.
In the end, it’s too early for the Yankees to pull the plug on Tulowitzki, but the clock is ticking on his chance to make the most out of his opportunity in New York. It’s not time for Boone and company to panic, but there is significant cause for concern.