In Blue Jays mythology, Troy Tulowitzki is Toronto's tragic missed connection.
The hulking shortstop was a can't-miss prospect in the 2005 draft. Then general manager J.P. Ricciardi somehow managed to miss him. Choosing sixth overall, the Jays picked starter Ricky Romero instead.
Tulowitzki went one selection later to the Colorado Rockies. Within a year, he'd reached the major league level. Within two, he was starting. Five years into his career, he was amongst the best position players in the game.
If we had mountains, there'd be a ballad: 'Tulo, the Franchise Cornerstone Who Should Have Been'.
Ten years later, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, current GM Alex Anthopoulos righted his predecessor's wrong. He also announced that after months of waffling, the Jays are committed to winning immediately. It's that or the plank.
This bore the usual Anthopoulos hallmarks – done late at night, and arranged in a 'He got what for whom?!' configuration. The core of it – the Jays swapped Tulowitzki for current Toronto shortstop and looming-lower-body-injury, Jose Reyes. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal first reported the deal.
Both players are under massive contracts. Tulowitzki, 30, is owed $98-million (U.S.) over the next six seasons. Reyes, 32, is due $48-million over the next three.
That's the end of the 'similarity' list. At his best, Reyes sparkled on and off the field, but stretching back to his time with the New York Mets, he has been repeatedly broken. Each time he returns, he is diminished. He can't defend at the top level any more. He's a passable leadoff man making far-more-than-passable money.
Tulowitzki has suffered serious injuries, but they've tended to be of the freak (broken rib, torn groin) rather than degenerative sort.
Over the last decade, there is no question he is the best shortstop in the game. During that time, he leads every player at his position in home runs (186), RBIs (650), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.893) and WAR (40.0). He's also a two-time gold glover.
Tulowitzki is Reyes minus a lot of wreckage, plus power.
Between 3B Josh Donaldson and Tulowitzki, the Jays now have the best left-side of the infield in baseball. An offence that was already tops in the game just got a nitrous injection.
The Jays also get journeyman reliever LaTroy Hawkins. The 42-year-old will be a solid, calming presence in a bullpen in bad need of both commodities.
As of 2 a.m., Rosenthal reported that the Rockies would additionally receive "minor leaguers" in the deal.
Various reports had them as Jays pitching prospects Miguel Castro and Jeff Hoffman. Both are tantalizing, but far from certain, projects. Toronto gets the best player; Colorado shifts a lot of money off its books as it begins a major rebuild.
It is possible the Tulowitzki trade is the first component of some other, still yet to be announced, deal. Since the deal activates a full no-trade clause in Tulowitzki's contract, it's far more likely he's here to stay. Plus, it'd be awfully hard to give up a player of this caliber once you've got him.
It's still not enough to transform a team sitting just outside the playoff picture. The Jays remain in need of a starting pitcher and a shutdown arm in the bullpen. The non-waiver trade deadline hits at 4 p.m. on Friday.
They have at least proved they are not afraid to take on salary. One or two serious additions can now turn Toronto from a fringe contender to a burgeoning league-wide powerhouse.
The contrarians will say that offence was the least of the Jays' requirements; or that it's too much money for another guy with with a questionable injury history; or that the prospects they've surrendered will turn into Sandy Koufax.
Maybe that will be the case. But from the perspective of right now, it looks like the best sort of baseball deal – getting an elite, game-changing player in his prime for one far past his own.