The Detroit Tigers have been sellers at the trade deadline for the past few years. The jury is still out on whether some of their moves will eventually pay off — others are clear losses — but the deals have helped stock the farm system with solid depth as the Tigers move along through their rebuild.
This year may be different, however. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Tigers are not shopping second baseman Jonathan Schoop at this year’s trade deadline. Schoop, who signed a one-year deal with Detroit last winter, was predicted to be one of their bigger trade chips this season. So far this year, Schoop has hit .296/.336/.504 with seven home runs and 18 RBI. He has been worth 1.2 wins above replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs, nearly eclipsing his 2019 total (1.3) already.
Estimating Schoop’s value is tricky. The Tigers have traded a few players on expiring contracts over the past three seasons, and the returns have varied wildly. The J.D. Martinez trade was panned from the start, and hasn’t gotten any better in hindsight. But the Leonys Martin deal, which fetched middle infielder Willi Castro from a division rival, was already praised, and looks even better now that Castro has gotten off to a hot start at the plate in 2020.
Elsewhere around baseball, the Mitch Moreland trade suggests that the 2020 deadline may be somewhat of a seller’s market, but that’s just a wild guess. Teams will only be getting one month from their trade returns this season, not two. Plus, as we discussed way back when the Tigers were shopping Jose Iglesias, most contenders have a solid middle infield already in place.
Couple that questionable trade value with what Schoop provides to the Tigers, and you can see why they want to hold onto him. Schoop has been Detroit’s most valuable player this year, anchoring the lineup after fellow free agent signee C.J. Cron went down for the season with a knee injury. Schoop also plays a premium position, and the Tigers don’t have a surefire replacement waiting in the wings. Castro’s defense needs a lot of work, and those problems aren’t solved simply by moving to the other side of the bag. Isaac Paredes may need to find a new defensive home if Spencer Torkelson is as advertised at third base, but we are... cautiously optimistic at best.
Also of note from the Toledo insider: Spencer Torkelson is developing so well at 3B that the Tigers have zero plans to move him. For now. As for Isaac Paredes ... Would not rule out an eventual shift to 2B. But a long way until a team needs to worry about relocating Paredes.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) August 28, 2020
Schoop’s one-year deal is set to expire at the end of the season, but the Tigers could (and should, I would argue) look to extend him for another year or two. A lot of us wondered why Schoop was only signed to a one-year contract last winter, and he has already proven his worth. This may prove costly for the Tigers, however; Schoop is still only 28, and could turn a strong finish this season into a bigger contract for 2021 and beyond — one the Tigers are not willing to match, at least.
But if the Tigers trade Schoop, their chances of re-signing him are slim. We rarely see a player return to the team that traded him the season prior, and the only recent example (Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman) involved a record-breaking contract. In fact, one might argue that dealing Schoop for a meager return, then failing to re-sign him, could be more damaging to the team’s long-term prospects than simply holding onto him at this year’s deadline.
Then there is the matter of the Tigers’ record. At .500, they are currently two games out of a playoff spot. While getting to the postseason and making some noise in October seems like a longshot, the opportunity cost for taking aim at the postseason is very low. Plus, a strong finish in 2020, postseason run or not, may convince owner Chris Ilitch that it is time to spend on some major league talent this offseason.
What do you think?
Should the Tigers trade Jonathan Schoop before Monday’s deadline?
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