Free-agent veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has agreed to a deal to join the New York Yankees, league sources tell ESPN.
The deal, which is pending completion of a physical exam, provides the Yankees a cost-effective shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery, but it does not necessarily preclude their pursuit of star free agent Manny Machado.
The 34-year-old Tulowitzki, who missed all of 2018 after undergoing surgery on both heels, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays in December. They will pay the majority of his $20 million contract, with the Yankees responsible only for the league-minimum $555,000.
From free agents to “the opener,” this year left many things open for the new one to take from here.
Tulowitzki long has expressed a desire to join the Yankees, whose longtime shortstop Derek Jeter was Tulowitzki’s idol. Tulowitzki grew into a Jeter-caliber player, turning his slick fielding and powerful bat into five All-Star Game appearances with the Colorado Rockies.
His career turned upon a July 2015 trade to the Blue Jays. Injuries slowed him, and after playing just 66 games in 2017, recovering from bone spurs in his heels sidelined him all of last season. The interest in Tulowitzki was strong nevertheless, particularly after a December workout for teams in which scouts said he showed impressive mobility.
Where he slots in long term for New York is an issue that will be dealt with later for the Yankees, who continue to be among the favorites to sign Machado, the 26-year-old shortstop/third baseman, sources told ESPN. If the Yankees do land Machado, they could play him at third base and either trade third baseman Miguel Andujar or consider using him at first base.
Gregorius, the 28-year-old entering his final season under contract with the Yankees, underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-October and is expected to return before the All-Star break. Recovery from the elbow-ligament-replacement surgery takes about half the time for everyday players as it does pitchers.
In his rookie season of 2007, Tulowitzki batted .291 with 24 homers and 99 RBIs to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun.
His best three seasons came from 2009 to 2011, when he finished among the top 10 in MVP voting each year and averaged 30 home runs and 97 RBIs. He also won his two Gold Gloves in 2010 and ’11.