The Schoop Extension Could Provide a Template for the Twins and Pineda

Brandon Warne

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I was mostly off the grid over the last weekend while celebrating my 10-year wedding anniversary, but I did happen to catch that the Detroit Tigers and infielder Jonathan Schoop had agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $15 million.

On the surface, it might seem like kind of a weird fit. Schoop, who turns 30 in October, has hit a more-than-respectable .288/.333/.464 in 109 games with 18 home runs while splitting time at first and second base.

Maybe part of the surprise is that Schoop wasn’t traded from the Tigers in either of his consecutive walk years, as he re-signed with them in the first place after his first one-year deal with the club.

Schoop can still hang at second base and is a good enough hitter to shuttle back and forth between there and first, but is he really a necessity for a Tigers club that’s still working its way out of a rebuild?

But I think that’s what I like about the deal in the first place. The Tigers are by no means great right now — 54-60 entering play on Tuesday with virtually no chance of making the postseason — and believe me when I say I get why teams pare off all their veterans at the deadline to retain some semblance of value moving forward, even if it’s just a nominal C+ prospect.

And in reality, how sure are we that the Tigers can contend in the window Schoop is signed for? Next year might be difficult with how good the Chicago White Sox are at present, but things can change quickly. Maybe the Tigers can be really, really good in 2023.

But then again, is a 1B-2B utility guy the linchpin for a team like that? Not really.

But again, I think that’s what I like about the deal. I’ve grown weary of the idea that every non-contending club needs to part it out every July, even if the return isn’t good, only to hit the reset button that offseason or power off and power back on altogether.

Teams still have tickets to sell over the final two months. Those fans deserve to see respectable baseball. Teams should still put respectable rosters on the field to maintain the integrity of playoff races down the stretch.

I know; get off my lawn, things of that nature.

But in the same way, I like that the Twins didn’t trade Michael Pineda for whatever they could get for him. He’s having a respectable enough season, so while he wasn’t likely to start a playoff game for his potential acquiring team, the fact that J.A. Happ was traded for a possible lefty reliever and an interesting righty in John Gant suggests that if the Twins were in that “whatever we can get” mode, they probably could have made something happen.

The Twins did make moves of that ilk this past month, don’t get it twisted. But they did so when it made sense for the direction the team — at least publicly — appears to be taking.

Or in other words — we aren’t starting from scratch.

It can be hard to say that while in the same vein seeing the team traded their best starter who still had a year of club control. But at the same time, every trade the Twins made — for the most part — returned prospect depth with guys who can be reasonably expected to contribute to this team at some point in 2022, if not sooner.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that while I respect that teams put guys on the clearance rack — respect might be a funny word in that way, but again from an analytical standpoint, I get it — I’ve kind of grown to loathe the idea of clearing room for the young guys so that a team can potentially be completely unwatchable once the NFL kicks off.

Or even worse, when training camp opens.

So maybe part of why Schoop was signed was the future uncertainty around the CBA. Schoop signed in February this last offseason, and the marketplace for 30-something infielders on the wrong side of second base isn’t usually healthy — and that’s especially true even without labor unrest.

So good on Schoop for getting paid, much like Eduardo Escobar — also an impending free agent — did when he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.

In the same way, I think I can see a scenario where the Twins present a similar offer to Pineda, who has been about as lucky as a two-leaf clover each time he’s hit free agency.

  • After 2017 - signed with the Twins after Tommy John surgery, missed 2018
  • After 2019 - suspended for a diuretic, re-signed with the Twins
  • After 2021 - velocity down, labor unrest, good but not great numbers (3.83 ERA/4.14 FIP/7.7 strikeouts per nine)

Pineda’s even older than Schoop, as he’ll be 33 in January. The idea of him finding that one big payday has possibly already set sail. Then again, that might be the reason he wouldn’t want to miss his chance to hit the market one last time.

But I also think there’s a chance the Twins could make an offer good enough to make him reconsider. They’re going to need rotation stability more than ever with Berrios out of the picture, especially now that Kenta Maeda looks more like a No. 3 starter than a 1 or 2.

The Twins need to reel in a big fish this winter pitching-wise if they really do intend on contending in 2022 — and Pineda would not be that guy. But if they can make a reasonable enough offer — say, two years and in the $18-20 million range — I don’t see any reason why they can’t agree to keep the big righty in the saddle for another go-round.

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Warne has covered the Minnesota Twins in some form or fashion for more than a decade, and before that grew a fan of the team. He lives in the suburban Twin Cities area with his wife Amanda and daughter Harper.

Minneapolis, MN
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