Twins making small bet on rebound candidate Jonathan Schoop

The Twins need two infielders this winter, and apparently they’re on the doorstep to adding at least one.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Twins and Jonathan Schoop are close to reaching a 1-year deal.

Rosenthal later tweeted that the contract is for $7.5 million plus incentives.

What will this mean for Jorge Polanco? He’s the starting shortstop, and Schoop has played some shortstop in the past with Baltimore. But Schoop had a bad year at the plate in Milwaukee in 2018, which is why the club non-tendered him this offseason. He batted .233/.266/.416 with 21 home runs between Baltimore and Milwaukee in 2018.

On one hand, an infield of Miguel Sano-Jorge Polanco-Jonathan Schoop-C.J. Cron has some real “downside” in the field (and is no slam-dunk offensively).

On the other side of the coin, Schoop (which is pronounced “scope”), is 27 years old and is an intriguing bounceback candidate.

We can’t ignore his bad 2018 season at the plate. And even as a former shortstop prospect, I don’t know many people that consider him a big plus defensively as a second baseman. (If you depend on metrics like Defensive Runs Saved, he’s saved 10 runs in more than 5,500 innings as second base in Baltimore and Milwaukee.)

Still, three things point in the Twins favor for this signing:

1) His 2017 season was great offensively. His 2018 in total was, to be fair, not great, Bob.

The former Orioles’ second baseman hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 home runs in his final full season in Baltimore in 2017. The following year he struggled so badly on a terrible team and was traded to the Brewers ahead of the deadline. And that meant that this winter, a smart team that’s trying to win in 2019 (the Brewers) chose to not pay him, and instead cut him loose.

So is Schoop the guy who got on base and hit for power two seasons ago? Or his he the guy who took a huge step backward last year? His career numbers — .258/.294/.444 — are somehwere in between. If he regains his form, he can really help the Twins take a step forward.

2) The contract looks like a short-term gamble, which offers some good and some bad. 

The bad news for Twins fans is that Schoop had a down year in 2018 and there are big names flying around this winter, while Minnesota is looking to find a bargain. We already went over the upside of a move like this. And the good news is that at such a low cost, this move allows the Twins to be aggressive as they address other areas of need.

3) Could the Twins have addressed their middle infield in another manner?

Darren Wolfson, among others, has reported that the Twins talked with D.J. LeMahieu and Jed Lowrie. They also could have looked into upgrading at shortstop and sliding Polanco to second base.

A skeptic might look at this move and ask: What’s the plan here? Is 2019 a year to shoot for it or are the Twins really going to try to keep their powder dry?

The optimist would look at this move and say that with roughly $70 million to spend — the gap between last year’s opening day payroll and the payroll at the start of this offseason — the Twins are being thrifty in a good way. If you can plug the hole at second base for $7.5 or so, that frees you up to really flex your financial muscles to improve other concerning areas. Besides, how hard will it be to top the 2B production from 2018? Brian Dozier had a bad year and was traded to the Dodgers. It didn’t get a lot better after that. Overall, Twins second basemen hit .237/.322/.362 (16 home runs) in 2018, and those numbers look achievable for Schoop.

Of course, the hope for the Twins has to be that he can surpass that production at the plate.  And if he gets back to his previous season’s production, the Twins will be handsomely rewarded for their bargain hunting.

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