The Troy Tulowitzki trade might be the strangest deadline deal ever

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The Blue Jays lead the majors in runs.

Now, I don’t mean they lead the league in runs by the usual amount, whether it’s 5, 10, 20 or whatever. The Blue Jays LEAD the LEAGUE in RUNS. They’re scoring 5.28 per game. No one is within 70 runs of them. The second highest scoring offense in the league averages 4.65 runs per game.

Of course, far less impressive than the Jays’ offense is their pitching. For that reason, they were supposed to be all over all of the big-name pitchers available this week. Maybe Cole Hamels was out of reach, but Jeff Samardzija was a popular choice. The Padres’ horde, Mat Latos of the Marlins and Mike Fiers of the Brewers were also being talked about.

And if the Blue Jays did go get a bat, it figured to be an outfielder. Preferably one who hits left-handed. 111 of the Jays’ 130 homers this year have come from right-handed hitters, and while they’ve gotten solid production from every spot, the positions on the team with the lowest OPSs to date are left field and center field.

Then there are the Rockies. The Rockies always need pitching. Their most effective starter this year has been 28-year-old Chris Rusin, a Cubs castoff with a 3-4 record and a 4.13 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. Overall, their starters have a 5.12 ERA, which ranks 29th in MLB ahead of only the Phillies. They’re dead last with a 1.52 WHIP and a 1.8 K:BB ratio.

The other thing the Rockies always seem to need to do is to get cheaper. They don’t really like spending money. They’re not very good at it when they do.

None of this would seem to be a likely recipe for a Troy Tulowitzki-for-Jose Reyes trade. To say this one came out of nowhere would be an understatement. No one would have guessed the Blue Jays were in the market for a shortstop. And no one would have imagined that when the Rockies finally traded Tulo, it would be for a player who has a higher annual salary.

Still, as these things tend to do, things seem to make more sense the deeper one digs.

First and foremost, while this will always be referred to as the Tulo-for-Reyes deal, that’s not at all what it’s about. This was a Tulo-for-Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro deal. The Rockies landed two prime arms in return for giving up the game’s preeminent shortstop and taking on a modestly overpaid replacement. A third, as yet undisclosed, prospect is also involved, and the Rockies also parted with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Reyes was not the focus. The trade would have made more sense on the Rockies’ end if it was just Tulo for the young right-handers, but then, the Blue Jays couldn’t have made that deal without somehow shedding Reyes’s salary in the bargain.

It probably comes as a surprise to many, but Reyes is making more than Tulo right now, just not for quite so long. He’s earning $22 million per year through 2017, with a $22 million option or a $4 million buyout for 2018. Tulo makes $20 million per year through 2019, $14 million in 2020 and then $15 million or a $4 million buyout in 2021. There’s also a $2 million trade kicker on Tulo’s contract. At a minimum, the Jays are absorbing an extra $52 million here, while also picking up three more years of control.

So, Reyes essentially had to be in this deal if the Rockies wanted the prospects. What remains to be seen is whether they’ll hold on to him for a bit or if they’ll flip him right away, opening up shortstop for a quality prospect in Trevor Story. Trading Reyes for a couple of prospects, probably eating some salary in the process, is probably the way to go. In Hoffman and Castro, the Rockies got two guys with top-of-the-rotation upside, though it needs to be noted that the former is coming back from Tommy John surgery and the latter couldn’t hack it as a major league reliever this year. Hoffman has the better chance of fulfilling his potential. Castro, though, has an incredible arm, and even if can’t make it as a starter, he could turn into a fine closer.

For the Blue Jays, well, this was all about making it back to the postseason, even if it materialized in a way that no one expected. Tulowitzki is a better hitter and probably a better defender than Reyes. He is injury-prone, but so is the guy he’s replacing. He’s a clear upgrade. He’d also seem to be a luxury purchase when there are still necessities required. Losing Hoffman and Castro is a big blow to the farm system that they’re going to have to dip right back into in an effort to upgrade their rotation. I’m going to withhold my judgment on whether it was the right move until seeing whether the Jays come away with a quality starter prior to Friday’s deadline.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”