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Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Tulo?

This offseason hasn’t been the spectacle many thought it would be. A few years ago, McCutchen, Harper, Machado, Donaldson, Kershaw, Price, Fernandez, Harvey, Keuchel and Kimbrel were some of the star-studded names set to become free agents in 2018. Now, that list is much smaller due to some of the names losing their luster and some players regressing quicker than expected. Despite that, this is still a very talented free agent class. There are big names still left out there, namely Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Bryce Harper isn’t a need that the Pirates have and, well, even if it was, it’s not realistic. Same goes for Manny Machado, no matter how many times I tell myself that ‘it’s not too crazy’, it still is too crazy.

There are some free agents that do fit a need and aren’t too crazy, though. We all know the Pirates biggest need is shortstop. There are more needs than just shortstop, but none are as glaring as the shortstop position. Right now it appears as though it will come down to a competition between newly acquired Erik Gonzalez and 25-year-old Kevin Newman. But based on the following quote, I’m fairly certain the Pirates would like to add another option before next spring.

Which then begs the question, what’s something that’s better than might come along? So far, we’ve heard it all.

Rumors are flying all over the place. The Pirates have been connected to many SS this winter. Let’s compare the options.

Nick Ahmed

Nick Ahmed is currently a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit .234/.290/.411 last year as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona has been an excellent source of offense for quite a while. However, the recent (last year) addition of the humidor has made it a more even playing field. His offensive numbers won’t scare anyone, but if he can hit better than Jordy Mercer…

ZiPS is still being rolled out, but Arizona was one of the first teams to be featured on FanGraphs during the offseason. That means they are one of the few teams that already have their ZiPS projections published. ZiPS projects Ahmed to hit .246/.297/.413 next season. Exciting? Not really. Better than Jordy Mercer? Eh, maybe. The part that really stands out, though, is the defense. He’s projected to finish with 11 defensive runs above average next season, which is what he had in 2018, which resulted in a Gold Glove. The bat might not play as well at PNC as it does in Chase Field, but Gold Glove-caliber defense plays anywhere. And with a Bell, Frazier, Moran infield, a Gold Glover wouldn’t be the worst addition.

Why should you want Nick Ahmed?

Do you want Gold Glove defense with a Jordy Mercer-sized bat? Then look no further. And, oh yeah, he’ll be under team control through the 2020 season. It is worth noting that, similar to Jordy Mercer, Ahmed performs much better against left-handed pitchers than against right-handed pitchers.

Why shouldn’t you want Nick Ahmed?

He’s not a free agent. It’s going to cost a couple of prospects to get him. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing, but I’d imagine that trades are typically costlier than free agent acquisitions. But I’m just guessing. I don’t really know. But I do know he can’t hit. Which really sucks when you remember half of the Pirates lineup can’t hit, either.

Freddy Galvis

Freddy Galvis is a free agent. He is remarkably similar to Nick Ahmed. Last season, Jordy Mercer had a higher wRC+ than Freddy Galvis. Last season, Freddy Galvis had a higher DRC+ than Jordy Mercer. Who is the better hitter? Both aren’t good hitters. Who cares. Defensively, Galvis is better than Mercer but worse than Ahmed. Not much worse, but enough worse to make him the less desirable option of the two. In every sense of the imagination, Freddy Galvis should be Plan B behind Nick Ahmed. He’s a switch hitter, though, which always adds some versatility. Even more so nowadays with increased relief pitcher specialization.

Why should you want Freddy Galvis?

Did the Diamondbacks block Neal Huntington’s number? Then I guess go get Galvis.

Why shouldn’t you want Freddy Galvis?

Are you tired of Plan B? Demand more than Galvis.

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki is a free agent. He is remarkably different than Nick Ahmed and Freddy Galvis. Troy Tulowitzki has been the ‘my goodness, if this guy could ever play a complete season…’ guy for quite some time. Last year, he wasn’t even able to start the season, let alone finish it. The nagging injuries, as well as Father Time, have all caught up to Tulo. But even with the injury history, even with the increasing age, it’s still Troy Tulowitzki. We all remember who he once was, and we all wish that he could be a fraction of that for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At this point though, it seems unlikely that Tulowitzki is going to be an impact player. But once upon a time, he was an impact player. Signing Tulo, whether it’s at a 1 million AAV or a 10 million AAV, will get the attention of some of the fans that the Pirates have lost.

Below are the ZiPS projections for Tulowitzki in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform. They aren’t great, in fact, they are pretty bad. Signing Tulo is like getting the Snickers bar out of the vending machine. You remember the last time you had a Snickers bar, how much enjoyment you got out of it, then you select it, pick it up, and read that it contains 50 grams of sugar. Do you take it anyway, because maybe it doesn’t give you diabetes? Or do you leave it because you aren’t any fun?

The projections aren’t any good. They are no fun. But live a little. What if?

Tell Dan I said thanks –

Why should you want Troy Tulowitzki?

Are you crazy? Yeah, me too. Ahmed and Galvis sound nice, but they are nice pieces to the puzzle. If Tulo is healthy, if Tulo is healthy and good, the Pirates got more than just a piece to the puzzle. They got a game changer. But those are gargantuan sized ifs.

Why shouldn’t you want Troy Tulowitzki?

You’ve read this.


Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman are most likely going to be the guys next year. However, Galvis, Ahmed, and Tulowitzki will be talked about until they sign or are traded somewhere. Heck, even Jose Iglesias might enter the picture again. Maybe the Pirates are seriously considering adding one of these guys, there are just so many rumors at this point, it’s hard to gauge just how serious the Pirates are about adding another option at SS. When I asked the people of Twitter, they said that if money was no object, they’d prefer Tulo over the others. What do you think?

Jake is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He is currently attending Saint Vincent College and is pursuing a degree in Finance. You might know him as @CannonballCrner on Twitter. Jake used to write for his own site, but now does all his writing at the Point of Pittsburgh. He is a big fan of the slider and wishes Chad Kuhl a speedy recovery.

9 Comments on Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Tulo?

  1. Thanks for this Jake! I like that you put all of the rumors in one spot. Personally, I don’t get excited for a guy like Ahmed b/c of the bat and the cost. Galvis is fine.. My main deciding factor is Surplus Value.

    Tulo = 0.9 WAR x $9.0M $/WAR – $0.55M Salary = $7.55M in surplus value

    If you sign Galvis, he’s in the range of $5-9M for a salary? To generate the same value, you’d require him to produce an additional 0.5-0.9 WAR.

    It’s a rare opportunity that is right in the Pirates’ wheelhouse. It’s low risk/cost and high reward. You’re not blocking Tucker/Hayes and you’re paying league minimum for a lottery ticket that should sell actual PNC Park tickets. He’ll probably be disappointing, and he’ll assuredly be a shell of the old Tulo, but you have to throw your hat in the ring under these circumstances.

  2. Michael Bradley // December 19, 2018 at 9:02 AM //

    Miguel Tejada is a real good comp for Tulo. I’d take his 34 and 35 year old seasons:

  3. The way I see it, there are only 4 teams that would likely be willing to hand him a “full-time” starting job at SS; Orioles, Marlins, Brewers, and Pirates. I’m not sure he would be interested in joining the O’s or Fish at this point of his career. To me, that means the Brewers and Pirates are the most likely suiters IF IF IF he can still play a decent SS. If he has no range left, then no one will hand him a full-time starting SS job. At that point, I don’t think the Pirates stand much of a chance unless he and Hurdle have a fantastic relationship/friendship.

    There are a bunch of other teams that would be willing to allow him to temporarily hold down SS or allow him to share/platoon at the position. I won’t name all of them. There are also a bunch of teams that would be able to offer him a full-time starting 3B job. (If his range has suffered, 2B probably isn’t a great option–and he has a cannon of an arm that would be wasted there.)

    He could also simply choose to sign with the A’s (his favorite team growing up), Giants (hated them as a kid, but they’re 30 minutes from his home), or Yankees (Jeter was his idle) as a utility option. However, I’m willing to bet he’d just sit out the next two seasons and collect his $38M from Toronto if that’s the case, then retire.

  4. At this stage of his career, even if Tulo is reasonably healthy, what are you getting? Probably 120 games at the outside, maybe 1.5 WAR, which is good value for the dollar, but not a guy who is really pushing toward contention–and that’s the best-case scenario. The only guy in this group who really has value is Ahmed–he’s only in his second year of arbitration, so he’s still relatively cheap, and as the article notes, he’s an elite glove. You can argue that he would be blocking Tucker, but given the relative lack of stability in the Bucs’ infield, you can slot Tucker in and second or third if his bat is for real, or Ahmed could be an attractive trade chip down the line.

    • I’m not sure why, due to this “stage” of his career, it is assumed he won’t be able to play full-time and/or play at a good level. This MAY be the case, but there’s also a good chance he could be worth 3.0+ WAR. I wouldn’t think that around 265/335/450 with 20 homers and average defense would be so out of the question. Also, let’s face it, that would make him a potential cleanup hitter on this team.

      Also, there is absolutely NO ONE that could reasonably be had in the Burgh that will step in at SS and push the team from non-contention to contention. Tulowitzki is their BEST bet to make a big difference, though.

      There’s also no such thing as blocking prospects. IF the prospect turns out to be the real deal, then you either trade the incumbent or the prospect.

      • I would note that as this “stage” of his career involves not playing at all in 2018 and surgery on both heels, it is highly unlikely that he could be counted on to play full time.

  5. Phillip C-137 // December 19, 2018 at 3:16 PM //

    I’m not disputing that when he has been on the field he has been very good. But looking at Tulo’s history I get this.
    Age 22 – Full Season
    Age 23 – Quad strain also hand laceration
    Age 24 – Full Season
    Age 25 – Fractured hamate bone
    Age 26 – Full Season
    Age 27 – Sports hernia
    Age 28 – Broken rib
    Age 29 – Torn labrum in left hip
    Age 30/31 – Broken scapula and quad strain
    Age 32 – Hamstring, groin and ankle injuries
    Age 33 – DL all season

    It looks like to me that Tulo is mostly breaking down from the waist down and that’s got to mean decreased speed and range.

    If a guy can’t stay healthy in his 20’s and early 30’s, what are the chances he’s going to suddenly be strong and healthy in his mid-30’s? I’d say not very likely. But, if Tulo is reinventing himself as a slugging “corner guy” (IF or OF) there could be some real value to signing him. (Or I may just be falling prey to the tendency of thinking he must be good today because I’ve heard his name so much over the years.)

    Maybe between Tulo and Chisenhall the Pirates get a full year of good production.

  6. None of mentioned players will really have any effect on the club. Nobody trusts Newman or Gonzales but I would not panic until a little later in 2019. Tucker may be ready by June or July. This team is a 4th place team anyway

  7. Should have paid Jordy the hometown discount. Nothing to see here folks..

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