After a 7-3 loss to the Twins on May 7, the Tigers were a dismal 9-24, and Jonathan Schoop was hitting only .185/.217/.250 through his first 115 plate appearances of the 2021 season. Since that date, however, things have greatly improved for both player and team. Detroit has quietly gone 31-27 over the last two-plus months, while Schoop’s revived bat has been a big part of that success — the veteran infielder has hit .320/.368/.567 with 14 homers over his last 253 PA.
While the AL Central is far from a strong division, the Tigers’ surge can probably be seen more as a positive step forward for a rebuilding team than it is a hint of a surprise second-half playoff push. Fangraphs still gives the Tigers a zero percent chance of reaching the postseason, and the club is both 11.5 games out of a wild card berth and 15 games behind the first-place White Sox. As solid as Detroit has been since that May 7 nadir, this is still a team that looks like it will be selling at the trade deadline, and an impending free agent like Schoop stands out as a likely candidate to be moved.
Schoop has spent the last two seasons in the Motor City on a pair of one-year free agent contracts, and delivered some solidly above-average offense. The 29-year-old has hit .277/.322/.469 with 24 homers over 545 PA and 131 games in a Tigers uniform, good for a 113 wRC+ and 118 OPS+. While the right-handed hitting Schoop has been solid against righty pitching, he has been particularly productive against left-handers this year, with an .880 OPS in 98 PA against southpaws.
Looking at the Statcast numbers, Schoop has a subpar .322 xwOBA, lower than his .337 wOBA. While he is making more hard contact than last year, Schoop’s hard-hit percentage is still exactly middle of the pack in the 50th percentile. Schoop has improved his strikeout rate (at least in comparison to the rest of the league) over his two years in Detroit, though he still isn’t walking much, as his lackluster 5.7% walk rate in 2021 actually represents a career high over a full season.
A second baseman for much of his nine-year MLB career, Schoop has actually been more of a regular at first baseman this year, as the Tigers have given youngster Willi Castro most of the playing time at the keystone. This new position will only increase Schoop’s trade value to potential suitors, as an interested team could deploy Schoop at either first or second base depending on the need, or shuttle him between the two positions based on matchups. Schoop also has shortstop experience but hasn’t played the position since 2018.
Cash-wise, Schoop would be a pretty inexpensive addition for small-market teams, or bigger-payroll clubs looking to avoid a luxury tax bill. His one-year deal is worth $4.5MM, so only around $1.6MM of that salary would still be owed to Schoop by July 30.
Injuries, long winning/losing streaks, and other swaps could drastically shake up this list in the coming days, but at the moment, let’s examine which teams might be the best fits for a Schoop deal between now and the trade deadline.
The Other Rebuilders
We can safely rule out the Diamondbacks, Royals, Orioles, Pirates, Rangers, Rockies, Twins, and Marlins, since their attention will be focused on moving their own trade chips prior to the deadline.
On The Fringe
The Cubs, Cardinals, and Nationals are all under .500 and — according to Fangraphs — have less than a five percent chance at the playoffs. Barring a big hot streak in the next two weeks, none of this trio will have much use for a rental player like Schoop, and could be selling players of their own. (Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has already hinted that his team is more inclined to act as deadline sellers.)
The Braves are only slightly ahead with a 7.7% chance at a postseason berth, and Atlanta also has a losing record of 44-45. Both the Nats and Braves might wait until pretty close to the last minute to sell since they’re still within striking distance in the NL East, though Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season-ending ACL tear might realistically close the book on Atlanta’s chances. Schoop is something of an imperfect fit anyway in Atlanta, as Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies have first and second base covered.
The Mariners are being given only a three percent chance at the playoffs, which perhaps seems a little slim considering Seattle is 48-43 and only 3.5 games back of a wild card slot (and seven games behind the Astros for the AL West lead). Those low odds could speak more to the strength of the Astros and Athletics than a reflection of the Mariners’ talent, and if Seattle is still in the hunt by July 30, it wouldn’t be surprising to see aggressive GM Jerry Dipoto make an addition or two in an attempt to keep the Mariners’ postseason drought from reaching 20 seasons. Schoop would be a nice upgrade for an M’s team that hasn’t gotten much from the second base position all year.
The Angels are behind the Mariners in the standings but are given a higher shot (14.5%) at the playoffs. That might reflect the quality of the lineup reinforcements coming the Angels’ way, as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Justin Upton should all be back from the injured list prior to the deadline. Jared Walsh and David Fletcher have first and second base covered for Los Angeles, though Walsh could potentially be moved back into right field duty in the event of a Schoop trade. In all likelihood, however, the Angels are probably more likely to seek out pitching at the deadline rather than another right-handed hitter.
The Tigers and Indians aren’t frequent trade partners, and it remains to be seen whether Cleveland will be more apt to buy or sell at the deadline given all of its pitching injuries. The Tribe have acted as both buyers and sellers at the deadline in recent years, however, and despite their struggles, they play in a weak division, have a 45-42 record, and sit 4.5 games out of a wild card berth. Fangraphs only gives the Tribe a seven percent chance at the postseason, however, and the club has a very tough upcoming schedule, starting the second half with 10 games against the A’s, Astros, and Rays. Beyond these factors, the Indians might also prefer to just stand pat with their current options at first and second base — powerful rookie Bobby Bradley has shown a lot of pop, while Cesar Hernandez has mostly gotten on track after a brutal April.
Not Great Fits
The Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros are also teams with an abundance of right-handed hitting bats, filled first base/second base positions, and a greater need for pitching. On paper, Toronto could get really creative and try Schoop (or even Semien) at third base, but that seems pretty far-fetched. Now that Luke Voit is back from the IL, the Yankees are hopeful their first base issues have been solved, and DJ LeMahieu can now take over at second base.
The Reds likewise have Joey Votto and Jonathan India at first and second base, but given the team’s penchant for shaking up its infield alignment, Cincinnati can’t be entirely ruled out. A scenario exists where Schoop is acquired, India is moved to third base and Eugenio Suarez is again moved to shortstop. In all probability, this one is also a longshot, unless Mike Moustakas’ injury absence stretches even longer and the Reds feel the need for more infield help.
The Brewers love multi-positional players, and Schoop could provide help at second base (in the event of another Kolten Wong injury) or at first base, as Daniel Vogelbach and Travis Shaw are both injured and Keston Hiura has largely had a brutal season apart from the last couple of weeks. However, the Brewers already acquired Schoop back in 2018, as part of a deadline day trade with the Orioles. Schoop struggled so badly over 46 games with the Brew Crew that the team non-tendered him after the season, so a reunion between the two sides seems unlikely.
Though Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, and Tommy La Stella are on the injured list, the Giants already have a decent amount of infield depth even with this trio out of action. Longoria and La Stella should both be back relatively soon while Belt is expected back at some point, even if his timeline is still uncertain. Unless there’s a rehab setback somewhere, Schoop doesn’t look like a priority for San Francisco.
Slightly Better Fits
The Mets are known to be exploring more third base options, but the team could address the issue from within by acquiring Schoop to play second base and then moving Jeff McNeil into the third base mix.
The Rays and Dodgers each have an abundance of infielders, but neither team is shy about acquiring multi-positional depth, and might also prefer Schoop over less-experienced roster options. Schoop could serve as a right-handed hitting complement to lefty swingers Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe at first base and second base in Tampa, while L.A. could see Schoop’s addition as a way of freeing Chris Taylor to be deployed all over the diamond.
Sticking with the NL West, Schoop might be a better match with the Padres, who have left-handed hitters at first and second base in Eric Hosmer and Jake Cronenworth. Schoop would very likely see more time at first base in this scenario, as Hosmer has struggled after a strong 2020 season.
The Phillies might have an infield opening with Alec Bohm sidelined by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and Bohm has also struggled in his first full MLB season. Jean Segura could be moved back to third base and Schoop installed at second, if Bohm needs a while to recover or if the Phils simply want to reduce his playing time for a more reliable veteran in Schoop. The long history between Tigers GM Al Avila and Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski could also help facilitate trade talks.
The Best Fits On Contending Teams?
No team has gotten less (by bWAR) from the first base position than the Red Sox, and Boston’s options have been further thinned since Marwin Gonzalez may begin the second half on the injured list. Boston would probably prefer a left-handed addition to the lineup, but trading for Schoop is a simple way for the Sox to immediately upgrade what is pretty much the only real weak point in their lineup, and Schoop also provides some additional depth for Christian Arroyo at second base.
Matt Olson obviously has first base more than accounted for in the Oakland lineup, but the Athletics could use Schoop as part of their second base or designated hitter mix. The A’s have gotten some nice results from the Jed Lowrie/Tony Kemp second base platoon, though Lowrie is always something of an injury risk and Kemp also gets a lot of playing time in the outfield. Chad Pinder will be gone until well into August due to a hamstring injury, and Mitch Moreland simply hasn’t hit much this season as Oakland’s primary DH. Schoop’s remaining salary is also manageable enough to fit into the Athletics’ limited budget.
The White Sox have had a vacancy at second base since Nick Madrigal was lost to a season-ending hamstring injury, and Schoop could also spell Jose Abreu at first base and see some time at DH. While super-utilityman Leury Garcia has been a bright spot filling in at second, Schoop is a more proven option for a team that has serious postseason aspirations. Chicago has already been linked to the likes of Trevor Story, Adam Frazier, and Eduardo Escobar in trade rumors, so the Sox clearly view the infield as a priority. One obstacle — the Tigers and White Sox almost never make trades, with just a single swap between the two clubs since 1989.