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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Jonathan Schoop

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The 29-year-old infielder could offer league-average offense and a good glove for a very cheap price.

Detroit Tigers v. Minnesota Twins Photo by Harrison Barden/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s January 6, and most of the high-profile free agents remain unsigned. The market has been moving very slowly, and uncertainty is starting to take over the scene. With each passing day, it’s becoming more evident that the Yankees won’t be breaking the bank anytime soon, for anyone. But they remain interested, as they should, in locking up one of the best bats available in the class: DJ LeMahieu.

However, the fact that the Yankees would prefer to stay at four years and less than $100 million makes us believe that other teams have a shot, since he wants at least a five-year commitment. The Bombers are still seen as the favorites to land the man that paced the team in fWAR the last two seasons, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets, and the Toronto Blue Jays are lurking.

In the unlikely case that LeMahieu decides to sign elsewhere, the Yanks need to consider a replacement. They can, theoretically, sign a shortstop (Andrelton Simmons? Didi Gregorius?) and move Gleyber Torres to second base, but they also can sign a second-sacker and plug him directly in LeMahieu’s place.

If the Yankees opt to take the second avenue, Jonathan Schoop can be a passable option. I realize he may not be the sexiest of names, but hear this: he is still in his prime, at 29 years old, has been average or above-average offensively in the last two seasons (100 wRC+ in 2019 and 114 in 2020) and is a good defender at second base.

Schoop may not be flashy, but he is a better alternative than the likes of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada, just to name a few. And he offers some pop (141 career home runs, .192 isolated power, and a .450 slugging percentage) to go along with his good leather.

Schoop was a fixture in the Detroit Tigers lineup in 2020. He slashed .278./324/.475 with a decent .334 wOBA and the aforementioned 114 wRC+. Over 44 games, he had positive contributions in baserunning (+0.2) fielding (+3.0), and batting (+3.3) per Fangraphs.

That all-around contribution resulted in a 1.4 fWAR. If we extrapolate that figure over 162 games, we get a nice 5.15.

Overall, Schoop’s 2020 Statcast profile doesn’t look strong:

However, if you go to his Statcast page and look at his yearly MLB Percentile Rankings available for him (since 2015, the start of the Statcast era) you will see very few reds and lots of blues. Conclusion: Schoop has been, over his career, a league-average bat (98 wRC+) with a very unimpressive Statcast profile.

For some reason, Schoop always overperforms his xwOBA. Part of the explanation could be that he is an extreme pull hitter (48.8 pull percentage in 2020, 22nd out of 175 batters with at least 170 plate appearances.) I do concede that his 2020 season was middling from an offensive standpoint: a .46 differential between his wOBA (.334) and xwOBA (.288) is worrisome, as is his 4.6 walk rate (in the 6th percentile.)

In fact, Schoop has been a tad inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. But he had a .293/.338/.503 season in which he hit 32 homers in 2017, and he surpassed 20 bombs in four consecutive seasons before 2020 when he clubbed another eight. He will not be among the Yankees’ best hitters for sure, but he can bop one out of the park every now and then while flashing good leather, all for a very cheap price.

And if we are getting defensive, well, Schoop is very serviceable. Over his eight-year career, he has accumulated 44 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) from the keystone. This past season, Statcast had him in the 82nd percentile in Outs Above Average, with two. Additionally, and while it is only a “break in case of emergency” situation, he could play third base and shortstop. He last played the hardest infield position in 2018, and he didn’t embarrass himself, with a -1 DRS and a 17.0 UZR/150 in 74 innings.

All in all, and the way the market is unfolding, it’s possible that Schoop signs for a dirt-cheap deal that can make the Yankees consider him as an alternative in case LeMahieu walks.