The Twins traded Brian Dozier last July, knowing that his long-term successor is probably still working his way up their minor league system, or even playing shortstop in Target Field. On Thursday, they installed a bridge to that future, one who comes with All-Star credentials.
Jonathan Schoop, a power-hitting second baseman whose 32-homer season for the Orioles earned him a spot on the 2017 All-Star team, agreed to a one-year contract with the Twins. Schoop, 27, will earn $7.5 million next season, money that also buys the Twins some time to sort out their options as a pair of former first-round picks approach the majors.
In addition to Schoop, the Twins added infield depth by signing Ronald Torreyes, a 26-year-old utility player who has spent time in six different organizations, most notably the Yankees. Both players come to Minnesota, three days before the start of baseball’s winter meetings, intent upon rebuilding their value after being non-tendered last week, Schoop by the Brewers and Torreyes by the Cubs.
For Schoop (pronounced “Scope”), joining the Twins is a chance to rebound from a disappointing 2018, a season that played out remarkably similar to Dozier’s: A slow start that never got much better, rumors of nagging injuries hampering his play, a deadline deal to a postseason contender, a flop in his new home, and a playoff run spent mostly on the bench. Schoop, Baltimore’s starting second baseman for most of five seasons, was hitting .244 when the Orioles dealt him to Milwaukee, where he played so poorly (amid hints that he was playing through a strained oblique that never quite healed) that Brewers General Manager David Stearns described the trade as “a bad deal, and that’s on me,” after the season.
Schoop, a native of Curacao who played for the Netherlands during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, batted only .202 with four homers in Milwaukee, and went 0-for-8 during the Brewers’ run to the brink of a World Series.
He’s an all-or-nothing hitter, a middle-infield slugger who has hit more home runs over the past two seasons than any second baseman but one: Dozier. He also has more extra-base hits in the past three seasons than any second baseman but Dozier and Jose Altuve. The downside? Schoop has one of the lowest walk rates in the majors, having walked just 75 times in three years, his career on-base percentage is a paltry .294, and he’s struck out more than 115 times in four of his five seasons as a regular.
Still, he finished 12th in MVP voting in 2017, off his 5.2-WAR season, and he combined with new teammate Miguel Sano to put the American League in front of that year’s All-Star Game in Miami, driving a two-out double in the fifth inning and scoring the game’s first run when Sano followed with a single to right. An All-Star level of production could make Schoop’s stop in Minnesota more than a one-year cameo.
Then again, Nick Gordon, the fifth overall pick in 2014, reached Class AAA last summer, and Royce Lewis, the 2017 draft’s top pick, jetted to high Class A. Both are shortstops, but could shift to second base once they reach the majors in another year or two — or bump current shortstop Jorge Polanco to the position, which some scouts believe might be a better fit for the veteran.
Torreyes also signed a one-year deal, reportedly worth $800,000 if he makes the team. He hit .280 in 41 games for the Yankees last year, filled in for Didi Gregorius for six weeks in 2017 while the Yankees shortstop recovered from a shoulder injury. Torreyes can also play second and third base, and figures to battle fellow Venezuelan Ehire Adrianza for the primary backup role next spring.
Schoop’s willingness to take a cut from his 2018 salary of $8.5 million — he could have received $10 million or more in arbitration, too high a price for the Brewers to keep him — reflects the glut of second basemen in the free-agent market. Along with Dozier and his temporary 2018 replacement, Logan Forsythe, those available include Jed Lowrie, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Josh Harrison, Daniel Descalso, Wilmer Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker.