In early December 2018 the Minnesota Twins found their replacement for Brian Dozier. With the fan-favorite having been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to his free agency, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine needed to find another second basemen. Replacing Dozier’s pop wouldn’t be easy, but they tabbed a former All Star to do so when they inked Jonathan Schoop to a one-year deal. Now with the season behind us we can evaluate how it turned out.
At the time of his signing I wasn’t too terribly interested in the pact. Dozier provided a significant amount of power, but also displayed strong on-base skills. For a Twins team also losing Joe Mauer, getting guys that could fill the basepaths seemed like a must. Schoop owned just a career .294 OBP and he was coming off a poor .682 OPS. After being dealt from the Orioles to the Brewers for the stretch run, things got even worse.
Obviously, it was the goal of Minnesota to rekindle the 25-year-old All Star that picked up MVP votes in 2017. He’d played all but two games from 2016-2017 and could be counted on as an everyday contributor. Although range wasn’t his greatest asset at second base, there was a howitzer attached to his shoulder and the arm would help to substantially upgrade the defense that Dozier brought to the position for the Twins.
We didn’t know that Major League Baseball was going to juice the pill for 2019, but it helped a guy like Schoop to launch dingers at a relatively significant rate. With so many power hitters around him in the lineup however, his skillset became somewhat redundant and the emergence of Luis Arraez made him replaceable. The 23 longballs in just 121 games was plenty respectable, and the .777 OPS checked in as the second highest mark over the course of a full big-league season. At the end of the day though, it was the .304 OBP that likely did him in.
The bulk of his 2019 was spent batting in the final three spots of the lineup. Even outside of run production lineup positioning, Schoop became a punchline due to the times in which he would come through. Late and close situations saw him post just a .658 OPS while he owned just a .618 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs. By leverage, he was at his best (.813 OPS) in the lowest stress scenarios. If you needed a hollow home run it seemed that Schoop became a lock.
Having just turned 28 there is plenty of runway ahead for the Curacao native. It obviously won’t be with the Twins, and I’m not entirely sure he’s rebuilt his value on the back of his 2019 exploits. Power at second base isn’t exactly guaranteed, but the sport has also shifted much more towards an on-base production model. It was that skill Minnesota appeared to need most, and ultimately that downfall that led to him being replaced.
There’s no reason to categorize the $7.5 million Minnesota handed to Schoop as foolish, but I think we can effectively say it worked out as planned. That’s a bit more than you’d like for a replaceable asset, but given the dollars paid to Arraez it should be considered as a wash. Minnesota’s offense was otherworldly in 2019, and whatever Schoop provided became a relative footnote.