MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Tulo deal could help Blue Jays to next level

Tulo deal could help Blue Jays to next level

The focus for the Toronto Blue Jays as Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline nears is on strengthening their pitching staff.

Enter shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, acquired by the Blue Jays along with setup reliever LaTroy Hawkins, on Monday night in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes and three Minor League players, right-handed pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco

Confused? Don't be. Adding Tulowitzki immediately makes Toronto's pitching staff better.

Tulowitzki traded to Toronto

And the fact the Rockies were willing to deal Tulowitzki, even though he is signed through 2020, shows that Colorado has decided something radical needed to be done with a franchise that has the fourth-worst record in the big leagues (42-55), and is in position for its third last-place finish in four years.

When he is healthy, Tulowitzki is arguably the best shortstop in baseball. And this year, he has been healthy. Tulowitzki hits in the middle of the lineup and he defensively dominates the middle of the infield.

The Rockies will miss Tulowitzki, but highly-regarded Trevor Story was recently promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week.

Colorado also has Reyes, at least for now, although it might make sense if the Rockies could deal him this week. For the Blue Jays, dealing Reyes helped ease the financial burden that came with Tulowitzki, who is guaranteed $98 million over the next five seasons. Reyes has two years and $44 million remaining on his contract.

Rosenthal on Tulowitzki trade

Colorado's big concern, however, is pitching, and the club added at least two strong arms. Neither team has announced the trade, but among the three prospects the Rockies will receive are Hoffman, the Blue Jays' first-round Draft pick out of East Carolina in 2014, and Castro, a 20-year-old power arm who actually spent some time earlier this year as Toronto's closer, but is now at Triple-A. Hoffman is ranked No. 3 on the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects list, while Castro is No. 5.

Top Prospects: Hoffman, TOR

In his first year on the job, Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich gets a chance to try and rebuild this franchise, which made its World Series debut in 2007 and returned to the postseason as the National League Wild Card club in 2009. The Rockies, however, have lost 88 or more games in each of the past four seasons and are in last place in the NL West this season.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos doesn't have much of a margin for error. He is in his seventh year on the job, and the Blue Jays, who haven't been to a postseason since winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and '93 have had a winning record in only two of the past six seasons.

Oh, there has been some anticipation, starting in 2013 when Anthopoulos began a high-priced remake of the team, bringing in the likes of Reyes, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and left-hander Mark Buehrle. And then prior to this season, he signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin and acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland.

There has been such a shuffling of the roster that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jose Bautista are the only regulars -- including the starting rotation and closer -- returning from the 2012 season.

So far, it has gotten Toronto a 50-50 record.

The Blue Jays are, however, third in line for the two American League Wild Card invites to the postseason, three games back of the Twins, who are holding down the second spot.

Tulo leaves game in the 9th

Looking for ways to close the gap on the Twins and Astros, who are sitting at first and second in the AL Wild Card standings, Anthopoulos knows the team needs to get better, and that's why when he could finally make an initial move to beef up the arms on the roster, he did the next best thing. He picked up Tulowitzki and shipped the defensively-erratic Reyes to the Rockies in an effort to ease some of the financial pain of Tulowitzki's contract.

That, however, doesn't hurt.

The real pain that Anthopoulos and the rest of Toronto's front-office staff have felt is emptiness while others have celebrated in October.

Anthopoulos is willing to gamble that Tulowitzki will help get the Blue Jays headed in the right direction, finally.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.