Jonathan Schoop completed a very important season in his career in 2021 where he did enough to convince the Detroit Tigers he was an asset worthy of a 2-year commitment versus a trade deadline chip.
Schoop’s magical month of June provided the main impetus for Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila to get ink on paper and let Schoop consider buying instead of renting next season.
Who is Jonathan Schoop?
Schoop will turn 30 in 2022 and brings a bevy of experience to the Tigers infield. A native of Curaçao, Schoop was a longtime Baltimore Oriole who displayed a solid power/low walk offensive game while providing good middle infield defense.
Schoop’s time in Baltimore peaked in 2017 with a fine counting stats season of 32 homers with 105 RBI and a .293 batting average. All three are still career highs for Schoop. The season was also valued as a career-best 3.7 fWAR.
The rebuilding Orioles eventually shipped off Schoop to Minnesota in a trade deadline deal in 2018. Schoop around as a Twin and put up a roughly league-average season in ‘19. He then hit the free-agent market with much uncertainty where the winds would blow him.
Schoop settled in Detroit late in the off-season before COVID shut down the world. A one-year deal from the Tigers led Schoop to a good showing in the mini-season. In 44 games Schoop slashed .278/.324/.475 is good for a 115 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR.
Lacking better alternatives, Avila re-upped Schoop to another 1-year hitch in ‘21.
Schoop in 2021
The Tigers were perhaps the worst team in baseball for the month of April in ‘21. They started the season 9-24 and somehow it seemed worse than that. Schoop crawled along in a similar fashion with an ugly first few weeks. In 87 plate appearances through the end of April Schoop slashed .198/.230/.284 for an OPS+ of 47.
Then as the Tigers pulled out of their death spiral in early May, Schoop also found a groove to hit .275 in May with no power. But it was a sign his bat was perking up.
Then the magic happened. The calendar flipping to June also meant Schoop was going to unleash a reign of terror on opponents pitching for the next four weeks. He was possibly the game’s hottest hitter for a short while. Schoop would smash 10 homers and 8 doubles in June with 27 RBI. His slash for the month in 116 plate appearances was a studly 340/.379/.698.
Schoop obviously couldn’t keep the June heater going…no one expected he could. Schoop returned to the roughly league-average bat he’s usually been in his career for the remainder of ‘21 with one protracted slump in the first few weeks of August.
However, Schoop and the Scott Boras Agency were able to parlay Schoop’s big month, his solid glove, and a sense of him being a “good clubhouse guy” into a two-year extension with Detroit. The Tigers opted for a 2-year/$15M deal instead of shopping Schoop at the trade deadline for whatever they could get.
Jonathan Schoop’s Future
Whether you believe Schoop should have been dealt at the deadline or he was worth the commitment of a two-year deal, it’s now done. He’s a Tiger for the next two years. What can Detroit expect?
Schoop has a track record now and it’s a pretty long one. He’s been worth about 12.5 fWAR in 9 major league seasons. He’s going to have a few hot streaks where he carries the club and a few weeks of doldrums from time to time. Basically a league average-y guy.
Schoop looks to have an excellent shot at playing second-base regularly although if Spencer Torkelson spends a month in Toledo next Spring, Schoop could once again see some games at the first sack along with Miguel Cabrera. Schoop is a steady, if unspectacular, defensive player with excellent arm strength for the right side of the infield.
It’s okay to be average. Every club needs a few as it’s rare for stars to inhabit the whole lineup. The hope Detroit needs to fulfill is to build a lineup where a hitter of Schoop’s ilk is batting down the order instead of in prime spots near the top of the order.
Did the Tigers need to keep Schoop for the next two years? Probably not…but some folks really dig certainty and hunger to see their rebuilding club start locking in players who might be part of the next playoff push.
The Tigers now don’t have to challenge themselves to get better at second base for two years. They can aim their focus elsewhere on the diamond. That, in and of itself, might make it a good move. If Schoop has a post-30 power surge looming, inches his walk rate up even a couple of points, and remains a trusty vet for the Tigers youngsters to lean on for guidance, Detroit might get some excess value from Schoop’s relatively cheap contract. More likely they get a smart vet playing to a league-average level for average money, who happens to get piping hot for a stretch or two. That ain’t bad…
2021 Grade: C+