The first step in Detroit transitioning out of its rebuild is resigning Jonathan Schoop, who has anchored the lineup for the last two seasons.
Building for the Future
At 54-59, the Detroit Tigers have been one of the nicest surprises of the Major League Baseball season relative to expectations. Arguably the biggest reason for this: the play of Jonathan Schoop. Despite some early-season struggles which had many fans calling for his release, Schoop has bounced back nicely, providing stability in the middle of the Tigers order.
In the month of June, Schoop played at an especially high level. Through 26 games, Schoop batted .340 with 10 homers and 27 runs batted in, and his on-base-plus slugging clocked in at an impressive 1.077. Overall, Schoop is now hitting .289 with 18 homers and 64 RBI. Due to his hot June, opinions on Schoop quickly shifted and the conversation centered around getting him into the all-star game as the Tigers representative. Although that honor went to Gregory Soto, Schoop’s performance has left many Tigers fans wondering whether he could be a legitimate piece for the future. This question was at the heart of the Tigers’ trade deadline, as the club considered whether it would once again enter the seller pool. If so, Schoop was a prime candidate to be dealt given the value he provided to a contender and his cheap contract ($4.5 million). While the Tigers did sell on one piece, Daniel Norris, the team largely remained intact. Once the deadline passed, the only question that remained was whether Schoop would be back after the 2021 season. Al Avila answered that question on Saturday afternoon, extending Schoop through the 2023 season.
At two years and $15 million, Schoop earns a modest pay increase, but given his numbers most would believe it to be an under-pay. The deal offers an opt-out after the 2022 season, making it team-friendly for Detroit. Tigers fans could assume that Schoop has enjoyed his time in Detroit based on his re-signing after the 2020 season, but the nature of this extension proves his loyalty to the city.
What Fans Can Expect
Schoop is having arguably having his best season since his 2017 all-star campaign, in which he hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBI. He finished twelfth in most valuable player voting that season. While Tigers fans probably should not expect that level of production from Schoop going forward, his level of play has far surpassed what Detroit fans have come to expect since the 2016 season. He has regained his form from those later years in Baltimore, which is what Detroit hoped he could provide in taking a flier on him in 2019 free agency.
Not only has Schoop been a stable bat in the Tigers’ constantly rotating batting order, but he played a very solid second base in 2020 and has picked up first base fairly easily this season adding to his versatility. He gives the Tigers flexibility to move him around the right side of the infield which allows them to give Miguel Cabrera time as the designated hitter and more off-days sprinkled throughout the season, should the Tigers allow him to play out the rest of his contract. If Cabrera is not in the picture going forward, Schoop could provide the Tigers a permanent first baseman while allowing the club to explore their options going forward at second base.
Schoop has been the Tigers’ best and most consistent hitter over the past two seasons, but with Chris Illitch’s recent comments and Schoop’s extension, the Tigers are hoping this will not need to be the case going forward. Schoop serves a contending team much better as part of a duo/trio in the middle of the order, which will likely be the Tigers’ vision over the next few seasons. However, given his level of production in the Old English D and his affinity for Detroit, Schoop has written himself into the plans for the next few seasons. The question now becomes who the Tigers will bring in to surround him throughout the rest of his tenure.
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