Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns had a very straightforward answer when asked about Jonathan Schoop‘s tenure in Milwaukee. Stearns admitted it was a bad trade, and the blame should be put on him. The Brewers had an unconventional infield when Schoop arrived, but they also had a crowded outfield, and that was a major factor to their NLCS run.
Regarding Schoop, there isn’t one reason to pinpoint why it didn’t work out. Sure, Schoop has primarily been an everyday player, although he hit .244 with an OBP under .300 in the first half with the Baltimore Orioles. With Milwaukee, Schoop wasn’t afforded the opportunity to hit out of his slump. The Brewers were in a pennant race playing deep into October, with Travis Shaw as a second base option just to have his bat in the lineup. There is also enough depth including Hernan Perez and Tyler Saladino as internal candidates to replace Schoop.
Now, as a free agent, Schoop has the opportunity for the fresh start he desperately needs. With that said, this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and it’s in his best interests to take the one-year deal Ken Rosenthal reported to reset his value.
In 2016 and 2017, Schoop was one of the most durable players in baseball, playing in 322 games over that two-year span. In 2017, Schoop had a career year with a .293 average, 32 home runs, and 105 RBIs. In a lineup full of sluggers, Schoop became one of the more trusted hitters for manager Buck Showalter. Despite the struggles in 2018, professional must produce no matter their role, and Schoop simply did not.
For the past few winters, it has been difficult to be a free agent, especially if you’re in that second-tier level. For example, Schoop’s former Brewers teammate Mike Moustakas had to settle for a one-year deal worth only $6 million last year. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Schoop was projected to make approximately $1o million in arbitration for the 2019 season. Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeted in November 2017, after Schoop’s breakout year, that any extension would be north of the five-year, $70 million value Jean Segura received from the Seattle Mariners. That deal won’t be out there this winter, but if Schoop takes a one-year deal, he can test the market again at age 28. The Brewers also tried to trade him, but there were no takers. However, maybe they knew the Brewers didn’t have much leverage, and were going to let him go anyway.
The list of available second basemen in free agency is much longer than next winter. DJ LeMahieu, Josh Harrison, Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, and Jed Lowrie are all free agents, and some will probably have to settle as utility men. Coming off a subpar season, a starting job perhaps is not a given for Schoop. However, next winter, Schoop and Scooter Gennett would be at the top of the position. Schoop is younger than Gennett and could have a better chance of cashing in next winter.
Schoop should take a similar path to the one Moustakas did last year. Sign for one year on a bad team, get consistent at-bats, and if he plays well, he can be traded again in July at the trade deadline. Then, he can still be in a pennant race with more eyes on how he performs and enter the market as possibly the top free agent second baseman available. This appeals to a team such as the Detroit Tigers because he can fill the current void, be extended since Schoop is still under 30, or be flipped for future assets the same way Leonys Martin was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
There’s no denying 2018 was a season Schoop will be looking to move on from as quickly as possible. The problem is it doesn’t always work that way. He is currently being evaluated as someone who played poorly as a part-time player with the Brewers, but also someone who was still struggling as an everyday player with the Orioles.
It would be in Schoop’s best interests to remind us of the player he was in 2017, and then test free agency in a much less saturated market. Age 28 is still young to be a free agent, and then he can earn the opportunity to get that $70 million deal he once deserved.