Is second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s cold start and injury an opportunity for the O’s?
Some friends of mine who do a really cool podcast at pressboxonline.com — brothers Matt and Josh Sroka and their best buddy (and now brother-in-law) Bert Rode — came out with a T-shirt a couple years back: “Schoop is Dope” it proclaims.
No, it doesn’t mean Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop does dope, and it sure doesn’t mean he is stupid. No, what “dope” means in this context is that he is awesome.
And awesome is one way to describe his 2017 season, one in which he batted .293, slugged 32 home runs while knocking in 105 (the 100 RBIs is something Manny Machado hasn’t accomplished yet). Awesome is how fearless and quick Schoop is as the central figure in either a 5-4-3 or 6-4-3 double play.
And if you happen to be an O’s fan worried a bit about our post-Manny Machado era in Baltimore, awesome also would be hearing that the club was able to get Jonathan Schoop’s signature on the dotted line on a new five- or six-year contract.
Well, in early April, when Schoop was batting just .217 with one homer and one RBI while striking out 13 times to just one walk (an OBP of just .234), the Orioles were offered an opportunity to sign an important member of their team for the foreseeable future.
Just like the Orioles’ best opportunity to sign Machado to a long-term deal was after one or the other of his two knee surgeries to repair first his torn right medial patellofemoral ligament and then about 11 months later to repair his left MPFL.
It came out this past winter from Jim Bowden of the MLB XM Radio that in fact the Orioles had engaged in discussions with Manny’s agent to try to get a long-term deal done. Apparently, the club and Machado got within a few million dollars but in the end, perhaps it was the club’s concerns about the long-term durability of Machado’s knees that led the club from further talks.
That and the fact that Machado’s numbers started to drive his price farther and farther from the realm the Orioles felt they could enter.
That is how sudden — like the turning on of a light switch — that a young player’s performance and price can suddenly change. While a year ago, say, last May or June, the Orioles might very well have been able to sign Schoop to a contract that resembled Rougned Odor’s six years for $49.5 million. When he signed in 2017, Odor was a couple of years younger than Schoop. But it’s easy to have seen Schoop last season biting on a six-year deal for $66 million to $72 million.
So while all the talk about Machado and the Nats’ Bryce Harper — his free-agency partner next November getting between $300 and $400 million over somewhere close to a 10-year term — what would a Schoop offer need to be after he may, say, drive in over 100 RBIs for a second back-to-back season?
You’d clearly have to be talking about a minimum of $150 million to $175 million for six or seven years. But what about in early April, while the weather and Schoop’s bat are cool?
One little-known fact needing to be accounted for with Schoop is that he is one of just six players who signed deals in 2015 and ‘16 with Fantex Inc. The others were the Angels’ Andrew Heaney, the Phillies’ Maikel Franco, the Twins’ Tyler Duffey, the Blue Jays’ Yangervis Solarte and the Astros’ Collin McHugh.
To keep it simple, Fantex purchased a 10 percent stake in a player’s eventual earnings. The actuarial table on this works out when a player reaches $40 million in earnings, Fantex is in the gravy from there on in. More importantly, what it says about these players is that they have equal parts of common sense and fear of failure.
With Schoop off to a rocky start and then being injured, might he begin to get a little nervous that a back-to-back big season that could have catapulted him to huge dollars might be compromised? If a person has once before reached for the security of a bird in the hand, what’s to say that his decision then wouldn’t be prologue to how he’d respond to securing his and his family’s financial security?
Look, Schoop could be as egotistical as his best friend on the Orioles, Machado, and go the free-agent route after the 2019 season and get close to $200 million guaranteed in a new six- to seven-year deal. However, it’s entirely possible that Schoop, having seen the muscles flexed by owners this offseason, would again opt to take a six-year deal with the Orioles for $90 million to $100 million.
It’s certainly something the Orioles management should pursue, before they run the very real risk of losing another rare bird.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is founder and publisher of PressBox.