After a 32 home run 3.8 WAR career year in 2017 with the Orioles, he stumbled badly in 2018. He was traded to Milwaukee, where the Brewers hoped to give him a chance of scenery. He struggled even more badly and was non-tendered by the club, since they had no intention of paying him the $10 million he likely was going to receive in an arbitration hearing.
You may wonder how someone that hit only .233/.266/.416 could get that much money. He did still hit 21 homers and drive in 61 runs. Home runs are not an unknown for Schoop, who hit 16 in 2014, 15 in 2015, and 25 in 2016. While he’s not a Gold Glove second baseman, he also doesn’t hurt you. He had 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2014, 2 DRS in 2017, and 3 DRS in 2018. He was only slightly below average in 2015 and 2016. The glove isn’t a problem.
So, Schoop has power and he has a decent glove at the keystone position. These are two-thirds of what Schoop needs to really get paid in free agency. There were certainly other teams in on Schoop, but after losing their stalwart second baseman Brian Dozier to free agency, the Twins are in the position to be able to take a risk. Since he is extremely unlikely to suddenly fall apart in the field and he’s pretty much a lock for 20 HR, there isn’t really much to worry about if he finds himself.
The projection for 2019 by Steamer is .256/.298/.450 with 22 HR and 68 RBI and 1.6 WAR in 122 games. That’s very similar to Schoop’s 2016. At $7.5 million, Schoop is actually a bargain with those numbers, even if his salary is increased by some incentives. If he plays closer to 150 games, he’s pretty much a 2-win player, which is worth something like $15 million a year on the open market.
The Twins are actually making an intelligent move here. They are pretty much paying him to be a stopgap second baseman who could produce as little as 1 WAR in 2019 and be worth his contract. Of course, he was worth a mere 0.5 WAR between the O’s and Brewers in 2018, but it’s unlikely he falls flat on his face again. He was a bit unlucky on balls in play - .261 batting average on balls in play VS a .296 career mark.
Sure, Schoop doesn’t walk, but his power alone is pretty much enough to make him a league average hitter. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider he’s steady with the glove. It’s a bit concerning that StatCast saw his expected batting average was only .227 and his expected wOBA only .266, when his true numbers were .233 and .290. Of course, that just means that his batted ball profile was terrible. Anyone who saw him play much at all last year could tell he was just not himself.
It won’t take much for Schoop to return to form. This is a guy who can be a steady league-average second baseman, and if he catches fire like he did in 2017, he could be an occasional All-Star, too. The Twins are hoping that he does just that, and since they don’t plan to contend, be a useful trade chip. If he falls flat, he’s not blocking anyone in the farm system. He does displace Ehire Adrianza - who isn’t much more of a hitter than Schoop was last year - but Schoop has far more upside with his power.
The Twins suddenly have a ton of infielders, especially with Ronald Torreyes joining the fold, as well if he makes the major league roster. But, Schoop is worth the gamble, and the Twins are in the position where if they lose the roll of the dice, it will hardly kill them. Even then, Schoop’s upside is such that they still may get some value for him. It’s a hard move not to like.