Troy Tulowitzki trade rumors will start heating up

The Colorado Rockies aren't very good and are unlikely to suddenly get better given their usual problems: pitching and hitting. After an offseason of inactivity, the Rockies' slow start has led to the inevitable Troy Tulowitzki trade rumors.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Tuesday that Tulowitzki and his agent, Paul Cohen, are having breakfast Thursday morning in Los Angeles and will discuss whether the All-Star shortstop should ask management for a trade.

"It's a tough topic to talk about," Tulowitzki told the Denver Post before Tuesday's game against the Angels. "But if it's being thrown around there, it's something I need to get addressed, because the last thing I want is to come to the field every day with that hanging over my head."

Of course, if Tulowitzki does decide to ask for a trade, that's much different from the Rockies deciding they want to trade Tulowitzki.

This is a bad team that lost its 10th game in a row on Tuesday. Colorado was last in the National League in runs allowed per game entering the 5-2 loss to the Angels and ninth in runs scored per game, and if the Rockies are ninth in runs scored, that's a bad offense. Opening Day starter Kyle Kendrick has an 8.73 ERA. Pitchers Eddie Butler (19 walks, 19 strikeouts with the Rockies) and Jonathan Gray (8.16 ERA in Triple-A), once top prospects, haven't developed. Carlos Gonzalez looks terrible. Tulo is 30 years old and injury prone, and the Rockies aren't likely to be competitive any time soon giving this starting rotation.

In discussing Tulo trade possibilities earlier Tuesday, FanGraphs' Dave Cameron wrote:

The Rockies are already 8.5 games out of first place in the National League West, and our Playoff Odds give them just a 0.2% chance of winning the division and a 2.3% chance of capturing one of the two wild-card berths. This puts them in the same tier as the Rangers, Reds, Braves, Brewers and Diamondbacks -- all teams that will likely be July sellers. It’s not impossible that one of them turns things around and makes an unexpected playoff run -- maybe the Rockies will even be that team — but while it’s too early for the season to officially be over for this group, it’s far later in the year for these teams than it is for the other two dozen clubs in baseball.

So, yes, it's probably time for general manager Jeff Bridich to explore a blockbuster. So who needs a shortstop? And who would have the young pitching the Rockies undoubtedly want in return? (I suspect you already have a team in mind here.)

Let's start with this. Here are the bottom five teams in FanGraphs WAR as far as what they’re getting in production from their shortstops:

30. Arizona Diamondbacks: minus-0.6. Rookie Nick Ahmed is considered a defensive whiz and the D-backs will see if the bat develops. They're in rebuilding mode themselves but are a division rival.

29. Toronto Blue Jays: minus-0.6. Jose Reyes is a bit of defensive liability and currently is on the DL with a cracked rib. But he's set to make $22 million in 2016 and 2017, so it seems like a tough fit.

28. Texas Rangers: minus-0.5. Elvis Andrus is signed through at least 2022, so the Rangers are kind of stuck with him. Or he's stuck with the Rangers. They also don't have the prized young arms to interest the Rockies.

27. Colorado Rockies: minus-0.5. Hey, wait a minute ...

Yep, the dirty little secret is that Tulo -- coming off hip surgery for a torn labrum -- hasn't played all that well. He's hitting .298/.306/.481, which isn't that impressive once you park adjust, especially the on-base percentage. The big issue has been the lack of walks: He has just two, with 24 strikeouts, compared to a nearly even ratio last year (50 walks, 57 K's). So what the heck has happened to his plate discipline? Entering Tuesday, his chase percentage on pitches out of the zone has gone crazily upward, from 25.8 percent to 34.5 percent. His overall swing-and-miss rate is up over 7 percent.

Could this all be a side effect of not being completely recovered from the surgery? Perhaps. Pitchers are actually attacking Tulo more in the strike zone compared to last year, and if he's swinging and missing more and thus getting into more pitcher's counts, they can throw stuff off the plate with two strikes to get him to chase. Still, last year he hit .235 with two strikes; this year, he's hitting .118. Something's going on here. His defensive metrics are also down a bit -- zero Defensive Runs Saved, minus-1.3 UZR -- so he's been about average defensively so far, when he's usually above average. It's too early to read too much into any of these numbers, of course; maybe he's just not a fan of snow in May.

26. Baltimore Orioles: minus-0.4. J.J. Hardy is back after missing time, so no need here.

So we'll need to look elsewhere for likely trade partners. In his piece, Cameron suggested three favorites: the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and, of course, the New York Mets. I'm not sure the Red Sox are willing to punt just yet with Xander Bogaerts, but they do have plenty of young pitching to offer (of course, they might need to use that pitching to bolster their own rotation or to acquire a veteran starter). The Yankees were the hot item last summer when Tulo went to a game on an off day to see Derek Jeter, sparking "he wants to play for the Yankees" rumors. It's not like Didi Gregorius has inspired much faith so far, that's for sure, but the Yankees don't have that top-shelf pitching prospect the Rockies would desire.

The Mets, however, do, although that pitching depth has been weakened with the loss of Zack Wheeler. Noah Syndergaard, who made his major league debut on Tuesday and showcased his blazing fastball (and shaky control), certainly would be the guy the Rockies would ask to anchor a trade. Wilmer Flores hasn't been terrible at shortstop, but the Mets need another bat, especially with David Wright still out and his future production a big concern; since April 24, the Mets are last in the NL in runs per game.

Assuming ownership would be willing to pick up Tulo's contract (he's signed through 2020 with a team option), the Mets would be the favorite to land Tulowitzki. I did, however, like one of Dave's other suggestions: the Mariners. They've essentially decided that Brad Miller can't play shortstop and are turning him into a utility guy. Chris Taylor is the better glove but is unproven at the plate. They still need another bat. They could package Taylor, Taijuan Walker and other stuff, giving them this lineup:

RF Seth Smith/Justin Ruggiano

SS Troy Tulowitzki

2B Robinson Cano

DH Nelson Cruz

3B Kyle Seager

1B Logan Morrison

CF Austin Jackson

C Mike Zunino

LF Dustin Ackley/Brad Miller

One more dark horse: the Chicago Cubs. If Addison Russell is now the second baseman of the future and Starlin Castro keeps plodding along with a sub-.300 OBP, maybe they look to upgrade with Tulo and then trade Castro (or include him in the trade).

Mets, Mariners or Cubs.

Check back on July 31.