Coming off a down year, the Minnesota Twins are taking a calculated bet on Jonathan Schoop.
The Minnesota Twins had spots to fill on the right side of the infield entering the offseason, and on Thursday they filled second base. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Jonathan Schoop has been signed to a one-year, $7.5 million deal with more available via incentives.
Schoop split the 2018 season between the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers, with a .233/.266/.416 slash-line, 21 home runs and 61 RBI over 501 total plate appearances. But he struggled after the Brewers acquired him (.577 OPS over 134 plate appearances) and he was non-tendered late last week.
Schoop had a breakthrough season for the Orioles in 2017, as he hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 home run and 105 RBI. Some the drop-off in 2018 can be chalked up to bad luck (.261 BABIP), but Schoop also made less hard contact and swung a bad pitches more than he did in 2017.
One area Schoop did not fall off in was defense, and by some metrics (UZR) he was actually substantially better at second base last season compared to 2017.
Brian Dozier was one of the best second baseman in baseball for a number of years, but based on 2018 Schoop does not have a high bar to clear. Dozier hit just .227/.307/.405 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and as a group Twins’ second baseman hit .237/.322/.362 with 16 home runs that Dozier accounted for all of.
At 27 years old, Schoop is a solid bet to rebound. His career numbers (.258/.294/.444 slash-line, 26 home runs and 79 RBI per 162 games) sit somewhere between his last two seasons, and on a one-year flier he’s almost certain to return value next season. He made $8.5 million last year, and was set to push toward $10 million for 2019 in arbitration.
Most importantly by signing Schoop, the Twins don’t have to rush top prospect Nick Gordon. In 99 games for Triple-A Rochester last year, he hit just .212/.262/.283 with 29 RBI and 13 stolen bases. His big league arrival may still come in 2019, but he has time to figure it out in Triple-A to start the season and legitimately earn a call-up.
The Twins also added infielder Ronald Torreyes on Thursday, but ideally he’ll serve as a backup at three positions (second base, third base and shortstop) without regular playing time anywhere.
Rumors of the Twins’ interest in free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu and Jed Lowrie probably leaves fans disappointed right now. But Schoop is a solid calculated bet on a short-term deal, and there’s plenty of financial room for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to fortify other needs.