Ahead of the deadline, the Brewers traded for bullpen help in the form of Joakim Soria. They appeared to need a second baseman, but then they traded for Mike Moustakas and moved Travis Shaw to second base in an unusual experiment. With those needs met, the Brewers turned their attention to the starting-pitching market. Then Chris Archer went to the Pirates, Kevin Gausman went to the Braves, Matt Harvey stayed in Cincinnati, and Kyle Gibson remained in Minnesota. Without seeing any other starting options available, the team landed another infielder in the form of Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles.
For the Brewers, Schoop is a year removed from a roughly four-win season during which he hit 32 homers and put up a 121 wRC+ thanks in part due to a .330 BABIP. This season, he’s still striking out around 20% of the time, is still walking about three times per month, and is still hitting a bunch of homers. However, with his BABIP at .262, his on-base percentage is an ugly .273 and he’s been about 10% below average with the bat on the year. We can’t completely chalk it up to luck, as he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he did a year ago, and one in five fly balls doesn’t get out of the infield. He does seem to have gotten better results lately, though, with nine homers this month after just eight through June. His wRC+ through June was a fairly disgusting 55, so it has taken quite a bit of good work lately to get back up to 90 on the season.
At first glance, Schoop would be appear to be a good fit for a platoon at second base, with Schoop facing lefty starters and Travis Shaw going against righties. On second thought, if the Brewers are willing to try Travis Shaw at second base, why not see if Jonathan Schoop can handle some shortstop? Orlando Arcia has been the starter at short for most of the season, but he has been bad enough on offense to warrant some minor-league time while Tyler Saladino kept the seat warm. Arcia did hit well in the minors before getting called back up last week, but his projections are pretty poor and he’s close to a replacement-level player even with good defense.
Whether Schoop can reliably handle shortstop is an interesting question — one to which we might find out the answer in the next couple months. He does have a great arm, but his range has never been fantastic. Ahead of the 2014 season, this is what Baseball America had to say about Schoop’s fielding:
A below-average runner, Schoop has first-step quickness to go with good hands and a plus arm. He’s capable of playing second base, shortstop and third and appears best suited for second.
Schoop is just 26 years old and those hands and that arm might make up for some of the lack of range necessary to play shortstop, but the Brewers are likely to see more ground balls make their way to the outfield with Moustakas, Schoop, and Shaw handling the three hardest infield positions than in an alignment that put players at their natural positions. If Arcia is even close to as bad with the bat as he’s shown so far, the upgrade on offense might be worth it. If Schoop is as bad with the bat as he’s been this season and Arcia hits closer to his projections, the change is probably close to a wash. Schoop needs to hit something approximating last season to make shortstop work.
If shortstop doesn’t quite work out, then Schoop becomes a platoon guy who gets starts at second and third with the occasional shortstop start and a bunch of pinch-hits off the bench. It isn’t the worst outcome. Then, next season, Schoop can take over at second base while Shaw moves back to third base and Moustakas is gone. Schoop’s arrival also buys some time for the Brewers’ best prospect, Keston Hiura, who started the year at High-A and has hit well on his promotion to Double-A. He can now be eased into the Brewers lineup after some time at Triple-A next season. The Brewers might not have gotten the pitching they wanted; at worst, though, they added a bench bat and a potential starter for next season.
As for the cost, Villar was in the middle of his second straight below-average season after his strong 2016 campaign. He’s in his first year of arbitration, so if things work out in Baltimore, the Orioles will have a cheap Schoop replacement for the next two years.
Ortiz entered the season as the Brewers’ fourth-ranked prospect, but his stock has dropped a little in his third season of Double-A. The 22-year-old righty missed a month with a hamstring injury — the second straight season in which he’s had hamstring issues — and has been good-not-great in his return from the disabled list. Carmona is an 18-year-old shortstop with some promise, ranking 15th on the Brewers list before the season. The pair of prospects rank eighth and 15th, respectively, on the Orioles’ current prospect list, with six of the top 15 players having been obtained in trades over the past few weeks and two more from this year’s draft. Schoop wasn’t going to be a big part of the Orioles’ future, and dealing him in the offseason wasn’t likely to get much return, so the Orioles did fine taking what they could get now while he’s hitting well.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.