I’ve had something of a side eye on the Brewers’ pending Jonathan Schoop tender decision for a while now, because it could impact the Cubs in a couple significant ways: (1) it changes the trajectory of the Brewers’ offseason if they part with Schoop and open up about $10 million in payroll space, and (2) it puts another interesting second baseman on the free agent market, which is an area where the Cubs could very well be shopping.
Very interesting 27-year-old second baseman could hit open market tomorrow. Sources indicating strong possibility #Brewers will non-tender 2017 All-Star Jonathan Schoop. Team evaluating all options, including trade. Schoop projected for $10.1M in arbitration, per @mlbtraderumors.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 29, 2018
You could see that the Brewers were going to have a tough decision on Schoop all along, having traded for him at midseason in part because he came with an extra year of control, but knowing that his projected salary was going to be pretty darn high given how bad his 2018 season was. Still, since arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, tendering Schoop – because of his upside – seems like the right thing to do for any organization that isn’t feeling a payroll pinch.
Schoop, who only just turned 27, hit a woeful .233/.266/.416 (80 wRC+) between the Orioles and the Brewers, after seemingly breaking out from 2015 to 2017, culminating in a .293/.338/.503 (122) line that 2017 season. He plays average defense in the middle infield, and offers plenty of value even as a league-average bat. He doesn’t walk, but he also doesn’t strike out at an outrageous pace, while hitting for good power. That profile means you’ll be very vulnerable to swings in your BABIP, though, and with his hard contact down in 2018, Schoop’s BABIP plummeted to .261 (career mark was over .300 before that), and his numbers therefore tanked.
Maybe he’s not worth the risk of a tender for the Brewers, specifically. But if you think 2018 was a fluke, then he could be in line for a serious payday should he reach free agency.
Will the Brewers be able to trade Schoop to a team looking for a short-term, low-ish cost roll of the dice? Or will Schoop reach free agency as a really fascinating candidate? Given the potential upside, it sure seems like there should be a team out there willing to part with a little something to get him from the Brewers. (I doubt that team would be the Cubs, by the way, because I don’t see these two teams getting together right now on this kind of trade. But if Schoop reaches free agency, I’m sure there are tires the Cubs will kick.)
Note that even if the Cubs don’t go after Schoop, specifically, his presence on the market impacts the payouts for guys like D.J. LeMahieu or Brian Dozier, should the Cubs be interested in either of them. If the Cubs don’t plan to keep Addison Russell, then they could be in the market for a full-time second baseman.
As for the Brewers, by jettisoning Schoop, they could let Travis Shaw continue masquerading as a second baseman while trying to retain free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. It might also put them in a better position to spend on pitching.