Detroit Tigers bring back 2B Jonathan Schoop on one-year, $4.5 million contract
Schoop, 29, played 44 games for the Tigers in 2020. The righty hit .278 with eight homers and 23 RBIs. In 2019 with the Minnesota Twins, he hit .256 with 23 homers and 59 RBIs in 121 games.
"Jonathan made a tremendous impression on us last year, and we’re looking forward to having him back with the ballclub for the 2021 season," Tigers general manager Al Avila said in a released statement. "Not only were we impressed by the on-field results, but also his leadership and relentless desire to be in the lineup day-in and day-out.
"It’s hard for a one-year free agent to have a real positive impact on a clubhouse’s culture, but he certainly achieved that last season, and we’re looking forward to that continuing."
To make room for Schoop on the 40-man roster, outfielder Travis Demeritte was designated for assignment. The 26-year-old went 5-for-29 (.172) in 18 games last season.
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The veteran infielder is the fourth significant signing by the Tigers this winter, following right-handed pitcher Jose Urena (one year, $3.25 million), outfielder Robbie Grossman (two years, $10 million) and catcher Wilson Ramos (one year, $2 million).
"I’m thankful for the opportunity to rejoin the Tigers for the 2021 season," Schoop said. "We have a really good group here — we started to build something special last year and are going to take it to the next level in 2021. This year I can't wait to experience first-hand the energy that the wonderful Tigers' fans bring to Comerica Park."
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Schoop owns a career .259 batting average, 141 homers and 415 RBIs across eight seasons for four teams. He has played for the Baltimore Orioles (2013-18), Milwaukee Brewers (2018), Twins (2019) and Tigers (2020).
Barring injury, Schoop will start at second base on Opening Day, making second base and shortstop — Willi Castro — the only infield guarantees entering spring training. The first full-team workout in Lakeland, Florida, is scheduled for Feb. 22.
"One of the other major factors in coming back to Detroit is the manager and the coaching staff," Schoop said. "I’m excited to play for A.J. (Hinch). He and I have already had great conversations about allowing me to showcase my defensive versatility a bit more this year."
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The Tigers are expected to give the Opening Day nod to infielder Jeimer Candelario, who won Tiger of the Year last season by hitting .297 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 52 games.
However, it's unclear where Candelario will play.
"We can dictate some of that if we sign an infielder," Hinch said Jan. 26. "A little bit of help at first base changes Candelario's usage. You sign a middle infielder, and that brings a lot of questions on where these guys can play. The infield is a specific area we're toying with, but every decision we make is going to impact (more than) just one or two or three players."
The dilemma at first base and third base revolves around Candelario, 21-year-old Isaac Paredes and the possibility of adding a free-agent first baseman. Last year, the Tigers had slugger C.J. Cron; he is still on the market and remains an option to return.
When Cron went down with a season-ending knee injury in August, Candelario filled in for 43 of his games at first base. His transition from third base opened the door for Paredes to make his MLB debut.
The Tigers plan to test Paredes at second base this spring, but by bringing back Schoop, it would only be as a secondary position. If Detroit signs a first baseman, thus putting Candelario back at third base, Paredes would likely start the year in Triple-A Toledo.
Schoop's best campaign was in 2017, his lone All-Star Game appearance, with the Orioles. He hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs. New Tigers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh was Schoop's hitting coach in Baltimore from 2015-18.
"He is a great hitting coach and communicator and knows how much damage I can do at the plate," Schoop said.