It has only been about three weeks since baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st, so we are still decidedly within “small sample size territory.” But if one had to make a determination about the trade that brought Jonathan Schoop to Milwaukee knowing only what we know right now, that deal would undoubtedly go down as a flop.
David Stearns and the Brewers acquired Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles just moments before the deadline, after the price for his services had fallen drastically from where it was in the days prior. The O’s were simply ready to move on. So the Brewers packaged up struggling second baseman Jonathan Villar along with minor leaguers Luis Ortiz (now Baltimore’s #7 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and Jean Carlos Carmona (#14 prospect) in order to convince Baltimore’s front office to part with Schoop.
Ortiz has moved up to AAA and has a 2.81 ERA through his first three starts, while Carmona has made the jump to short-season A ball and is batting .293/.370/.366 in 41 plate appearances. Villar, meanwhile, is off to a .270/.343/.444 start through the first 16 games of his Orioles career. With three homers and two steals, he is once again flashing that tantalizing power/speed production that he teased us Milwaukeeans with during his outstanding 2016 season.
Jonathan Schoop, on the other hand, has been a detrimental presence so far for the Cream City Nine. He’s batting a putrid .163/.180/.204 in 50 plate appearances for the Brewers, which translates to a -4 wRC+. Yes, you read that right. Negative four. He has just two extra base hits - both doubles - and has walked only once. He’s chasing pitches out of the zone some 52% of the time, is swinging and missing at a 21% rate, and has struck out 19 times for a K-rate of 38%. His bat has been so bad that he’s already begun to lose playing time and has started only 11 of the team’s 16 games since the trade.
I was wary of the Schoop trade from the beginning, as he possesses an extremely volatile offensive profile built almost solely around his power. But I didn’t foresee him being this bad, and I doubt that Slingin’ Stearns and company did, either. According to Roch Kubatko, Orioles beat writer for MASN sports, the Brewers may already be feeling buyer’s remorse for the deal:
Jonathan Schoop was 8-for-48 with 18 strikeouts in 14 games with the Brewers, and he wasn’t in last night’s lineup. So, do they still tender him a contract and absorb the raise he’s going to get beyond the $8.5 million he’s being paid this season? Could he possibly become a non-tender?
There are rumblings that the Brewers will try to flip him to another team - if that’s the correct term after months have passed instead of hours.
Schoop is under contractual control for 2019 through arbitration, but apparently the Brewers aren’t exactly sold on him returning to their infield next year based on his work with Milwaukee so far. Whether or not there would be any real trade interest in a player who has been worth -0.5 fWAR for Milwaukee and is batting a cumulative .234/.262/.417 in 101 games with the Orioles and Brewers on the season remains to be seen, however. Especially one who is projected to receive a raise on top of his $8.5 mil salary this season.
Should the Brewers decide to hang on to Schoop, he’d likely earn somewhere in the vicinity of $10 mil in 2019. That’s not a ton of money in the grand scheme of baseball, but the Brewers are a small market team and they have been known to pinch a penny or two under the current front office regime. If Schoop can pick up his level of play now through the end of the season and be closer to the guy who was worth 3.8 fWAR in 2017, then making that ~$10 mil or so commitment for him to return next season becomes a lot more palatable. If he’s playing well, it would also make it easier to find another club willing to take on that type of salary. But unless he can improve, non-tendering Schoop would at least relieve Milwaukee of any financial commitment to the player for the 2019 season and free up that money to use elsewhere.
Milwaukee’s top prospect is second baseman Keston Hiura, who looks like he should be ready to take over the position at the MLB level sometime next season (probably once we are safely past the Super Two cutoff). If the Brewers are ready to commit to Hiura for most of 2019, then it may be easier for them to dump Jonathan Schoop this winter and go with someone cheaper like Hernan Perez (who is batting .321/.356/.536 since the All-Star break) at the keystone for a few months until Hiura is deemed ready for the big leagues.
Hopefully, though, Jonathan Schoop can get things going with the bat in the coming weeks and simply make this a non-issue.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs