Tulo understands future in Colorado may be uncertain
Shortstop expresses desire to remain with club but aware trades could be on horizon
DENVER -- All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki insisted he still has hope.
But like so many with the Rockies, who once more have experienced a heavy injury toll that has exposed a lack of depth, Tulowitzki realizes the coming weeks might signal a time for a change.
The Rockies enter Friday night's home game with the Twins, which starts the final series before the All-Star break, at 39-53. They're a half-game ahead of the last-place D-backs in the National League West, 11 1/2 out of first and 11 back in the NL Wild Card race. They've won just five of their past 23 games. Victories over the Padres on Tuesday and Wednesday gave them consecutive victories for the first time since a five-game winning streak that ended on June 16.
"No doubt, these are important games to get us headed in the right direction before that break, to give us some hope, for guys to realize we can hold onto this thing," Tulowitzki said. "You never know. Since I've been around, the times when we've made our run have been in the second half."
But the late runs to the postseason account for just two seasons since Tulowitzki broke in to the big leagues late in the 2006 season. If it doesn't happen this year, it might be time for change.
"If that time comes, it'll be in the offseason and it'll be us sitting down and talking about the future here with the Rockies and what direction they're headed," Tulowitzki said. "Definitely, I love playing here, I love the fans and the idea of staying in one uniform my whole career. But at the same time, winning is the No. 1 priority with me.
"If they feel they can get more youthful and have players and give me a chance to win sooner rather than later, that's something that needs to be discussed. I have to sit down with my family as well as the organization and lay it all out there on the line and see what's best for both of us."
While Tulowitzki doesn't believe he would be dealt during the season, the same can't be said for many of his teammates. The games between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline could determine whether the Rockies find their way back into the NL West race or if Tulowitzki will have August and September to plan out his conversation with the front office.
And while the Rockies have shown no willingness to deal Tulowitzki during the season and would need to collapse before the deadline to entertain thoughts of trading outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was set to return Friday after missing five weeks because of surgery to remove a benign tumor from his left index finger.
But others could be on the move. Reports this week by the Baltimore Sun and Fox Sports that the Orioles are heavily scouting left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa were confirmed by a Major League source.
The Rockies like the Orioles' young pitching depth. Righty Kevin Gausman, who played high school ball in the Denver area before going to LSU, would be a dream catch, but the Orioles have shown no desire to deal him. Lefty Tim Berry, 2013 top Draft pick Hunter Harvey, righty Mike Wright and righty Tyler Wilson are possibilities. All are at Triple-A Norfolk.
De La Rosa, in the final season of a four-year, $42.5 million deal, is tied for second in club history with 64 wins and has the highest winning percentage in club history for anyone with at least 50 starts.
"If I'm going to get traded, I'm going to get traded," De La Rosa said. "It's a business. If they want me, I'm fine with that. I've always wanted to be here, but I have to be a professional. I still feel the same. I'd like to be a Rockie the rest of my career."
The Rockies also cold hold De La Rosa and attempt to re-sign him or extend a qualifying offer at season's end. Even if they trade him, there's still a chance they could attempt to re-sign him after the year.
Other players who could come into play on the trade market are righty reliever LaTroy Hawkins (Colorado's closer, who can pitch in other relief roles) and outfielder Drew Stubbs. The Rockies don't want to deal first baseman Justin Morneau (signed through next season) or outfielder-first baseman Michael Cuddyer (a free agent at season's end), but continued struggles could change that.
"I've been through it," Hawkins said. "When I thought I was going to get traded, I didn't get traded. When I didn't think about it, they did it; I got designated and traded. I can't control that.
"It doesn't make a difference. Baseball is baseball the way we play it in [the United] States. It's not like I'm going to the United States to Japan. I'd be going from Colorado to wherever. Same game, same distance to the plate. Maybe a few more fans, but other than that, nothing."
Such decisions, however, haven't been made. The Rockies are in a division where one team is over .500 at home (the Giants), so there is time and hope.
"There's a sense of urgency in our group, knowing that the clock is ticking," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's relatively early. It's not April, but we're still in the first half if you use the All-Star break is a barometer. We have a lot of guys ready to come back, so it gives the club some hope."
Last offseason, when the Rockies and Cardinals had talks, Tulowitzki had never before dealt with trade rumors. Although he doesn't expect a deal now, he realizes poor play leading to the Trade Deadline just might make the Rockies listen to offers.
"I believe we can win here. But at the same time, if it doesn't happen, it's a fair question," Tulowitzki said. "But I try to be focused on today, not try to get too far off that."
The reason for the possibility of trades is deeper than a disabled list that has included third baseman Nolan Arenado (who is back), Gonzalez and Cuddyer from the regular lineup, and currently includes six starting pitchers. (Righty Jhoulys Chacin is likely done for the season with a shoulder injury, and Tyler Chatwood's strained right flexor tendon hasn't responded to rehab).
The offseason saw the Rockies beef up the starting pitching with Brett Anderson, who returns from a broken finger Sunday, and Jordan Lyles, who is out with a broken hand, the relief pitching with Hawkins and the position players with Stubbs and outfielder Brandon Barnes.
However, when the injuries occurred, the farm system did not produce enough players to keep the team competitive. Only All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon, outfielder Corey Dickerson and lefty starting pitcher Tyler Matzek (1-3, 4.79 ERA in six starts) have shown frontline quality. In fairness, righty starters Eddie Butler and Christian Bergman were injured before they had much of a chance.
The Rockies have finished last in the NL West the past two seasons, with poor depth being a culprit each time. Given the Rockies' mid-market status, that can only be fixed with consistent production from the farm system. Why that has been absent is a question local media and a disappointed fan base are debating loudly.
Tulowitzki hopes a healthier roster will end the shouting with its play.
"This season, I definitely thought we [could] win," he said. "If you ask me the same question at the end of the season, hopefully I'm telling you we can win here and it's proven. I've done it here in the past and it's possible."