By Joel Sherman
One of the most vital moments of this season will occur Thursday at a breakfast meeting in Los Angeles between Troy Tulowitzki and his longtime agent, Paul Cohen.
The two will decide whether it is time to ask Rockies management for a trade.
“To say that it is not a possibility would be silly,” Cohen told The Post by phone.
Cohen said he “spent a tremendous amount of time” on this topic with Tulowitzki in the offseason. He explained “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to see why the subject will be renewed now – the Rockies are miserable again (they lost their 10th straight game on Tuesday night) and the likelihood of being a contender any time soon is not strong.
Tulowitzki was described as frustrated with four straight losing seasons and wants out, according to two people who know him well. Cohen would not describe Tulowitzki’s mindset, but it was clear in a 15-minute conversation Cohen clearly sees the value of his client moving to a better place for his mind and body (not playing in high altitude any longer).
The Rockies could hasten their rebuilding by dealing their star shortstop at a time when the Mets, Pirates, Mariners and Padres all have needs at the position. Tulowitzki wears No. 2 in honor of Derek Jeter, but I have been told the Yankees are emphasizing defense and limiting long-term risk and are unlikely to play for Tulowitzki.
“It could get to the point for [owner] Dick Monfort and GM Jeff [Bridich] that the storyline every day with the team is when is Tulowitzki being traded,” Cohen said. “That is negative for the franchise as the idea of trading the face of the franchise. They are smart enough to recognize they don’t want that going forward.”
But the Rockies might already have missed their best window to deal.
Tulowitzki has similarities to Hanley Ramirez in age and hitting ability (especially once Tulowitzki would be taken out of Coors Field). Ramirez already had played himself off of shortstop, and the perception among personnel men is Tulowitzki is probably not long for the position.
Ramirez got a four-year, $88 million contract this past offseason. Tulowitzki began this season with six years at $118 million left. As a free agent, Tulowitzki probably receives something between those two figures.
But what team would pay him like a free agent and take on the risks — he has exceeded 140 games played just three times in his career (at ages 22, 24, 26), is coming off of major hip surgery, likely needs an imminent position change, is 30 years old and probably will have his offense decline outside of Colorado — plus give back premium prospects in return. In addition, if dealt, Tulowitzki receives a $2 million bonus and gains full no-trade protection moving forward.
Monfort so far has refused trading the face of the franchise, and I can’t imagine his approval of a deal if the return is good but not great. Bridich, the GM, refused comment in an email on Tulowitzki’s availability. However, he did tell MLB.com trading Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez was not on the horizon.
“It’s early in May,” Bridich said. “If and when those situations come up, we’ll deal with that then.”
But Gonzalez is the cautionary tale. Ownership annually has refused to allow CarGo to be dealt. Now, he might be untradeable with his average down to .196, scouts saying his bat-to-ball skills have regressed and a contract that still calls for $53 million from 2015-17.
Do the Rockies risk something similar with Tulowitzki? He was hitting .317 this year, but with just two homers and two walks and 23 strikeouts. Scouts say he is moving fine and his offense likely would be rejuvenated in a place where winning was possible.
So it is going to be up to the Rockies to decide if it is better to do as good a deal as possible now — and try to build for the future around Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson while attempting to figure out a winning pitching formula in high altitude — or wait in a Hail Mary hope that a great trade is still out there for them.