Troy Tulowitzki's time with the Blue Jays officially came to an end, as the five-time All-Star was released on Tuesday morning with two years remaining on his contract.
The move came one day after general manager Ross Atkins met with Tulowitzki's representatives at the Winter Meetings. The 34-year-old shortstop is owed $34 million over the next two years of his deal, plus an additional $4 million buyout for 2021. Toronto remains on the hook for that full amount.
The sudden release was somewhat surprising, but not entirely out of the blue, because it came less than a week after Atkins made some very candid comments about the veteran infielder. Atkins said Tulowitzki would have to "overachieve" to regularly play shortstop at an "above-average level."
"Ultimately a tough decision for the Toronto Blue Jays that we had to make," Atkins said on Tuesday afternoon.
"We feel like it's in the best interest of the organization, in the best interest of Troy -- fortunately, because of the professionalism and respectfulness of [agent] Paul Cohen and Troy Tulowitzki, we agreed upon that."
The decision to release Tulowitzki paves the way for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to become the everyday option at shortstop. Brandon Drury is expected to start the year at third, with Devon Travis at second and Justin Smoak at first. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., ranked as MLB's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, should be ready to take over third by the end of April, while Richard Urena offers depth as a utility infielder.
2Lo is my dawg man. Super sad to see my brother go. He’s a winner. Unreal clubhouse presence. Always willing to help and mold young players. One of the best baseball minds I’ve ever been around. His career is far from over. See you soon my bro!— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) 11 de diciembre de 2018
Tulowitzki, despite his past pedigree, did not fit into that roster alignment. Reports suggest his recent workouts in California have been going well, but the 12-year veteran hasn't played in a Major League game since July 28, 2017, because of ankle and foot injuries. Tulowitzki has every intention of playing in the Major Leagues next season, but it's a total guess as to whether it will actually happen.