Yesterday, infielder Jonathan Schoop signed a two year extension with the Detroit Tigers worth $15 million ($7.5 million AAV) that includes an opt-out after the 2022 season. Schoop’s tenure in Detroit started in 2020 when he was signed before the season for $6.1 million and continued after re-signing for $4.1 million before this season.
Schoop has been well above average at the plate across 465 plate appearances this season, hitting .288/.333/.464 with a .342 wOBA, and 117 wRC+. Despite primarily playing second base in his career, Schoop has become the Tigers’ primary first basemen this season where he has -3 DRS, -2.3 UZR, and 2 OAA. Schoop does play better defense at second base where he’s had 3 DRS, 3.3 UZR, 7 OAA over the last two seasons, but his versatility is important as it allows the team to create flexibility with potential free agent acquisitions and calling up prospects.
So far this season, the Tigers have a 54-60 record and Fangraphs projects them to finish 75-87. This is a big step in the right direction for a team that went 47-114 in 2019 and was on pace to go roughly 64-98 had 2020 been a normal 162 game season. Due to their improvement this season, there is speculation that the Tigers will look to be active in this offseason’s free agency and bring in some impact players which could affect where Schoop plays in the field. Additionally, Spencer Torkelson, the first overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and fourth ranked prospect in all of baseball (via Fangraphs), has already reached AA and figures to be called up to the Major Leagues sometime next season. Torkelson has the ability to play first and third base, so Schoop could see a reduced role at first base if/when Torkelson is called up.
I would give the Tigers an A for extending Schoop. While I do expect Schoop to somewhat regress from 117 wRC+ this season (and 114 wRC+ from last season), I still expect him to be a roughly/slightly above league average hitter through his contract. Additionally, I expect Schoop will continue to play solid defense across two positions which would be beneficial to the Tigers. Extending Schoop shows that the Tigers are starting to become committed to building a contending ballclub soon, and they keep their best veteran player on a very affordable contract for the next season or two (depending on if Schoop exercises his opt-out).