The Yankees had plenty of preparation time to find a temporary replacement for shortstop Didi Gregorius, who underwent Tommy John surgery on October 17, 2018. Yet, the club's answer - or prayer - is Troy Tulowitzki.
As if the Yankees were lost in 2013, the team apparently loved what they saw from Tulowitzki in a workout conducted for MLB squads in mid-December. Recall, Tulowitzki was released outright by the Toronto Blue Jays, who will pay the shortstop all but the MLB minimum ($555K) toward his $19 million due in 2019.
Taking a flyer on a player like Tulowitzki at the league minimum salary is understandable, but to outright name him the starting shortstop for a team with legitimate hopes to win a World Series title before seeing him step foot on the field in a competitive atmosphere is not. That's because Tulowitzki cannot be fully relied upon and the Yankees backup plan - shifting second baseman Gleyber Torres from second base to shortstop - is also misguided.
Placing Tulowitzki at the top of the depth chart appears more like wishful thinking than analytical soundness for the Yankees. While the monetary cost will be minimal, the roster dynamic could become completely muddled if trends win out.
The 34-year-old Tulowitzki last played in a major league game on May 29, 2017, so the thought process of bringing him along slowly as the Yankees intend is fine, but it immediately affects Torres. The 22-year-old Torres, readying for his sophomore season actually requires more seasoning at second base. That cannot happen if he's playing shortstop, even every so often, during spring training.
Getting back to Tulowitzki, should he maintain his health through the spring and is ready for Opening Day, what's to suggest he'll be productive at the plate? Looking back at the time leading up to his latest injury, Tulowitzki was appearing to decline offensively, posting OPS+ marks of 101, 102 and 80 in successive seasons from 2015-17. Furthermore, being away from the game for over a year and a half, doesn't exactly illicit comfort in a quick return of timing at the plate.
The Yankees might believe the rest of the lineup can easily balance Tulowitzki's potentially league-average to below-average production at the plate, but that's not the only factor. According to defensive metrics, Tulowitzki was an average fielder in 2017. Moreover, he's coming back from surgery on both his heels, which could cause some issues moving in any direction while fielding the shortstop position. Infield defense is an extreme issue for the Yankees and they have seemingly ignored that with Tulowitzki.
All of this is not to say that there is not a spot on the roster for Tulowitzki. The interesting aspect is that the Yankees could have utilized Tulowitzki as its roving infielder (instead of signing DJ LeMahieu at two-years, $24 million) and found a fill-in shortstop either from within or via free agency at a reasonable contract cost.
That type of scenario would have allowed the Yankees to consider spending the LeMahieu money elsewhere on the roster, while leaving Torres firmly planted at second base. If a super-utility role would not have been suitable for Tulowitzki, making him consider signing elsewhere, can anyone honestly suggest that the Yankees would have mistakenly missed out on his services?
Sure, the Yankees can cut bait with Tulowitzki if things are not working out. However, that will put the club into reactive mode, one that they basically created themselves with a plan based on a hope and a prayers.