The major Detroit Tigers news of the past week was the two-year extension signed by Jonathan Schoop. The move felt bigger than the actual scale of the two-year, $15M pact. Indeed, it’s widely being taken as a sign that the club will finally pursue some serious free agent help and lay the foundation for an emerging pool pool of young talent to carry them back to the postseason.
We’ll see how clear a sign of Chris Ilitch’s imminent largesse this turns out to be, but for now, retaining Schoop at low cost, low commitment, papers over part of the organizational weakness in the infield with a quality veteran player in his prime. Schoop’s gregarious personality, baseball smarts, and experience have also seen him develop into a leader for a young squad so all around this decision has received nothing but praise.
The question on everyone’s mind is what it means.
Jonathan Schoop is here to stay, and everyone likes that
Evan Woodbery for MLive took a crack at projecting the Tigers’ 2022 offense in light of Schoop’s extension. Jason Beck at MLB.com praises Schoop’s versatility as a factor in his value to the Tigers. Cody Stavenhagen at the Athletic Detroit had great quotes illustrating both parties satisfaction with the deal.
“I feel really good here,” Schoop said Saturday in Cleveland. “I feel comfortable here. I want to stay here. … This is one of the best days of my life. I can’t show it because I’m not that emotional of a guy. But inside I feel really happy, and I gotta thank A.J. for the chance, sticking with me in April. It was a rough April. I have no words other than to thank him for believing in me and to keep throwing me out there.”
The underlying context is whether or not this is a sign that the Tigers are actually going to do what it takes to realistically try to contend in 2022. Is this the first move in a busy and productive offseason? Or is this just a cheap way of appearing to try, without actually committing to putting together a roster that actually has a chance? This offseason will answer the question.
Ok now do shortstop
As for what the Tigers should do about the shortstop position, Carlos Correa won our fan poll in a blowout, with 54 percent of the vote. We still think there are several other good options. We’ll take any of them, but don’t stop there. Click On Detroit breaks down the options and tells it like it is regarding the club’s internal options.
On the other hand, we have Lynn Henning, writing for the Detroit News and suggesting that the Tigers’ shouldn’t pursue a major free agent shortstop this offseason because it may handcuff them financially. His arguments for this position seem based on a misunderstanding of the last decade of Tigers baseball.
Henning suggests that spending big money a decade ago on players like Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder kept them from filling in holes in the roster, particularly in the bullpen, and that signing a free agent shortstop now could leave them tapped out from shoring up other holes. But of course, they did spend free agent dollars on the bullpen, including Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit. The flaw, was that their drafting and player development was terrible, and has remained so until at least very recently, failing again and again to produce internal options to turn to for help, particularly in the bullpen. If they can’t finally get that part of it right after a half decade of promises, nothing matters anyway. The success of Chris Fetter and Juan Nieves thus far should give confidence that they can continue to tune up arms to help out.
Its not even the offseason yet, and still we’ve been through this a hundred times in depth on the site already. The Tigers have no excuses for running a payroll well under $100M now that much of their young talent has reached the major league level, or projects to do so later next season. They don’t have to go sign Carlos Correa to a $300M+ contract, but there will be plenty of reasonably priced options.
Henning himself runs through the non-options in the Tigers’ system, making it clear there isn’t an answer forthcoming internally. If the Tigers had developed a shortstop prospect in the last five years, we wouldn’t be in this position, but they couldn’t manage it. They could’ve traded for a shortstop like Willy Adames, who arrived in Milwaukee a month ago with several years of team control remaining. They weren’t ready yet.
If they can find a creative way to put a quality bat and glove at the position without handing out a big contract this offseason? Great. But don’t settle for the Jordy Mercer route and tell us you’re serious. No one is asking them to add $70M to the payroll this offseason, and there are certainly multiple places they’ll need help, but if they don’t get themselves a major upgrade at the biggest positional hole on the roster, concerns over depth in the supporting cast aren’t going to matter anyway.
Chase for 500/3000
Since the All-Star break, Miguel Cabrera has been on a really nice tear. After a first half in which he struck out 26.7 percent of the time, he’s chopped that down to a 13.4 percent mark. He’s hitting .275 and getting on base at a nice clip, though the power hasn’t really shown up. A strong month at the plate now has the big man at 498 career home runs and 2946 hits. Watching him rise to the moment has added an extra layer of fun and more importantly, contributed to the Tigers’ run of success. Chris Brown has a really nice retrospective of career moments over at Motor City Bengals. Here’s a little compilation Bally Sports produced as well.
The White Sox really are a problem
Of course, while these are much better times for the Detroit Tigers, the specter of a young, seriously talented Chicago White Sox team looms over the entire division, and the shadow is long. Luke Hooper has a really nice breakdown on White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn’s progress as a hitter for FanGraphs. The talented first baseman has cut his whiffs and strikeouts down enormously since the All-Star break, and he is flat out raking for a White Sox club that just got Eloy Jimenez off the injured list. Luis Robert is due to return soon too. Oh and Dylan Cease is starting to put it together and that’s another starter with outrageous stuff to add to that rotation. Michael Kopech is still just building up in the bullpen...
The playoff chase heats up
The Mets might be in trouble. The Padres are thinking about playing Fernando Tatis Jr. in the outfield, because he keeps dislocating his shoulder? Maybe shut it down guys, idk. The San Diego Tribune has a piece on Padres manager, Jayce Tingler’s experience converting Ian Desmond to the outfield. The problem is with Tatis’ left shoulder though, not his throwing arm, so the line of thinking here isn’t terribly clear.
Mad Max made his presence felt in LA, as he begins his Dodgers career. Bryce Harper is making his MVP case and the doubters are quiet as the Phillies seize the NL East. Meanwhile, and despite all the efforts of the Padres and Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants continue to dominate the NL West. The addition of Kris Bryant at the deadline, and the return of Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria from the injured list have them primed for some odd year magic.
Around the horn
For some reason, MLB is in talks to have Barstool Sports broadcast games in some ill conceived attempt at the youth culture. Meanwhile, a million voices cry out as one, “end the black outs!!!” This is what fans want.
Lookout Landing has an interesting piece by Joe Doyle looking at Jarred Kelenic’s swing adjustments. The rookie appears to be adapting quickly to major league pitching. Matt Collins over at Over the Monster is less than thrilled with the Boston Red Sox’ work at the trade deadline, nor their play over the past few weeks.