Jonathan Schoop
Jonathan Schoop may wind up as the steal of the entire MLB offseason. Let me explain (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Twins are ready to roll. Huh? Really? Yes, you heard that right. Everyone assumes that the 2019 AL is already wrapped up. The Red Sox and Yankees in the East. The Indians in the Central. The Astros in the West. BUT… are we sure the Indians are a lock? Everyone has counted out the rest of the AL Central, but maybe you shouldn’t.

Minnesota signed infielder Jonathan Schoop to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million just prior to the start of the Winter Meetings. I can promise you that there’s a good chance we look back on this move and wonder why he went for such a little price. Could Jonathan Schoop become the steal offseason? It’s a bet worth making.

Jonathan Schoop is a really good player that is getting a bad rap. Some situations in baseball are toxic. No situation epitomized that phrase more than the Baltimore Orioles. They are a glorified AAA team. Schoop got off to a slow start with the O’s and their entire season went into the toilet. We’re talking about a team that lost 115 games in 2018. It’s hard to bring your A game everyday when you’re playing for a team that stinks and has zero future.

Schoop still played alright with the Orioles in 2018. In 349 at-bats, Schoop hit .244 with 17 home runs. The problem was he was chasing too many pitches and only got on base .266 percent of the time. Seems like a correctable issue for a young player but it festered too long with a losing environment. Later in the season, Schoop was then traded to the Brewers. That did not end well.

I think we forgot that players are humans. Not everyone reacts well to be traded. You’re moving families across the country. That’s not easy for a guy that has been with one franchise for his entire career. Schoop, 25, never got a chance to play on a full-time basis. It was a bad situation in Milwaukee. The Brewers also made a trade for Mike Moustakas creating a mess in the infield. Schoop turned into a part-time player with Travis Shaw moving to second base on a regular basis. Sure, Schoop hit .202 in 124 at-bats but the organization never believed in him from the second the Brewers traded for him which seems odd. Check out this quote from the GM. It’s hard to perform when your own team talks shit about you.

“Look, it was a bad deal and that’s on me,” Stearns said in a conference call Friday night. “We made a trade for a player we thought was going to be here for basically a year and a half and I was wrong.

Uh, what? Schoop was later released and non-tendered by the Brewers. Don’t you think that’s going to light a fire under someone? Here’s the thing that people are missing. Schoop, 27, is still a really young player that should theoretically starting to hit his prime. People have short memories. Take a look at his 2017 numbers.

2017 – Schoop: .293/.338/.503 – .841 OPS, 124 OPS+, 32 Home Runs, 105 RBI’s

2018 – Baez: .290/.326/.554 – .881 OPS, 126 OPS+, 34 Home Runs, 111 RBI’s

Could you imagine Javier Baez being released a year from now? That would be insane, right? Those Schoop 2017 numbers are VERY comparable to Javier Baez’s 2018 season where he just placed 2nd in the MVP voting. Should we really be too hard on a guy that had a bad year with the anemic Orioles and Brewers where he was basically getting screwed with playing time? By the way, what I haven’t mentioned is that Schoop has a cannon of an arm. Schoop is arguably the best defensive 2nd baseman as well and that doesn’t go into slumps like any bat can.

Schoop was an All-Star in 2017 and there’s a very strong possibility that he can recapture that magic with regular playing time. If that happens, the Twins can be a real team in 2019. This is a team that signed C.J. Cron to a cheap one-year deal worth $4.8 million. The Twins got nothing out of Logan Morrison a year ago and he’s been replaced. Miguel Sano regressed in a significant way. So did Byron Buxton. It seems plausible that both of those guys take steps forward. Stud shortstop prospect, Nick Gordon, should also make his debut sometime in 2019. Minnesota will also get a full year out of Michael Pineda who was recovering from Tommy John last year.

The Twins will also have a new manager in 2019 with Rocco Baldelli. New managers can make a huge impact on a young team that needs a kick in the ass. Baldelli is coming over from a Rays team that just won 90 games. Look at this roster. Add a piece here or there and is this team really that far away from the Indians? I don’t think so.