Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop intends to exercise a $7.5MM player option for the 2023 season, reports Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press. It’ll be the second season of the two-year extension he signed towards the end of the 2021 campaign.
There was never much doubt about the decision, as Schoop wouldn’t have topped $7.5MM in free agency after a dismal offensive season. The 31-year-old hit only .202/.239/.322 with 11 home runs through 510 plate appearances. A meager .234 batting average on balls in play was a part of that disappointing year, but it also demonstrated the downside of Schoop’s extreme low-walk approach. Of the 132 hitters with 500+ trips to the dish, Schoop was easily the worst at reaching base. Cody Bellinger, owner of a .265 OBP, had the second-lowest mark among that group and still topped Schoop by .026 points.
To his credit, Schoop did perform excellently on the other side of the ball. He played a bit more than 1100 innings at the keystone and drew unanimously excellent marks from public metrics. Defensive Runs Saved pegged Schoop as eight runs better than the average second baseman, while Statcast credited him with a whopping 20 runs above average. No other second baseman was credited with more than +9 runs, per Statcast. Schoop was a finalist for the American League’s Gold Glove Award at second base, but the honor went to Cleveland’s Andrés Giménez.
It’s hard to envision Schoop performing at that level defensively again, but he has a career track record of strong marks for his work at second base. He’s shown more offensively in the past, including a combined .278/.321/.443 showing between 2020-21. Schoop will need to bounce back at the dish if he’s to remain a regular for manager A.J. Hinch, but he’ll be in an uncertain infield mix. Javier Báez will play shortstop, and the Tigers figure to give Spencer Torkelson another shot to seize first base. Detroit could non-tender third baseman Jeimer Candelario rather than retain him on a projected $7MM arbitration salary, while Willi Castro and Harold Castro look like utility options. Prospect Ryan Kreidler debuted late in 2022 and could be in the mix at either second or third base, and Detroit figures to make at least one addition from outside the organization.
With Schoop triggering his option and reliever Andrew Chafin bypassing a $6.5MM player option in favor of free agency, the Tigers are up to roughly $78MM in 2023 commitments. Arbitration projections from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz would add roughly $28.8MM to that total, but Detroit could knock off more than half that tab by making some reasonable non-tender decisions. The Tigers opened the 2022 campaign with a payroll around $135MM, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts, so there should be ample flexibility for the front office. It’s the first offseason at the helm for president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who came over from the Giants to replace former GM Al Avila.