The daydreaming about Colorado Rockies All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki someday replacing Derek Jeter in the New York Yankees' lineup didn't just start when they both pulled into Minneapolis for this week's All-Star Game, and reporters revived the stories about how Tulowitzki grew up idolizing Jeter, or how he wears No. 2 in honor of him.
Tulowitzki started directly addressing the speculation way back in spring training because the Yankees are going to have two vacancies -- at shortstop, and as the face of the franchise -- when Jeter retires after this season.
Now, the best reason to still consider the possibility that Tulowitzki, the best all-around shortstop in the game, could end up in New York isn't just that he already fills those roles for Colorado. Or that the Yankees could absorb the seven years left on his $157.5 million contract that runs through the 2020 season, with a club option for 2021.
The reason to pay attention to the Tulowitzki talk is Tulowitzki himself doesn't dismiss it.
If anything, Tulowitzki seems willing to talk about coming to the Yanks whenever he's asked, wherever he's asked.
Doesn't matter if it's on a sleepy day at spring training, or at media day at the All-Star Game on Monday -- one of the biggest stages in the game, besides the World Series -- as he was speaking for about an hour to wave after wave of reporters. He also has broad power to veto where the Rockies might want to send him. And that's a factor in where he might land, too.
Tulowitzki could demur every time and blandly say it's unseemly for him to keep directly addressing replacing Jeter. After all, he's the undisputed face of the Rockies' franchise now that Todd Helton has retired after 17 seasons (but not a single division title) with the Rockies.
He just made the All-Star Game for the fourth time in his seven-year career, but the team is foundering again. During one miserable stretch this season, Colorado lost 28 of 38 games. The Rockies haven't made the playoffs since 2009. The only other time Tulowitzki has even been in the postseason was 2007, his sensational rookie year, when the Rockies got hot late and ran all the way to the World Series before losing to the Red Sox.
And yet, despite -- or perhaps because of -- having all that going on, the 29-year-old Tulowitzki doesn't shut down the Yankees' trade talk.
He fans the embers.
A little over a week before heading to Minneapolis, he told the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla, "In Todd Helton, there's someone who's easy to look at his career here and how it played out. I have the utmost respect for Todd, but at the same time, I don't want to be the next in line as somebody who was here for a long time and didn't have a chance to win every single year. He played in a couple postseason games and went to one World Series. But that's not me.
"I want to be somewhere where there's a chance to be in the playoffs every single year."
Tulowitzki didn't back down once at the All-Star Game, either. When asked about Jeter, whose baseball camps he used to work at, Tulowitzki said: "Everybody wants that perfect story, whoever it may be. Whether it's me or somebody else who took over for Derek, no doubt, it makes for a great story ... [The Rockies' organization] know(s) how important winning is to me. If they feel like, 'Hey, we need to get younger,' and they feel like they can get some prospects from me, then that's what it is. But I'm not demanding a trade."
It was basically the same theme Tulowitzki has been repeating since spring training.
The Yankees will have cheaper, even younger shortstop options to chase this offseason. Starlin Castro, Hanley Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, maybe Jose Reyes or Asdrubal Cabrera could all be available. But Tulowitzki is better than any of them. This season he's already hit 21 home runs and has a sensational .345/.435/.613 slash line.
The Yanks always suffer in trade talks versus free-agent chases because of their thin farm system. But don't discount the star-power vacuum the Yankees will be facing with Jeter gone just a year after Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera left the building.
That matters to them, too. Yanks GM Brian Cashman talks often about the Yankees being "big-game hunters."
And the void Jeter leaves will of course be palpable, especially with Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia facing uncertain futures, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann so far looking like nothing more than good players whose personalities don't move the needle much.
It takes a lot to get noticed in New York. And it's hard not to notice how much Tulowitzki is courting the chance to come here. Not looking the other way.
A lot of this long drum roll reminds you of when Alex Rodriguez wanted out of Texas. And the Yankees found a way.