LAKELAND, Florida – A Merry Jonathan Schoop bounced Monday morning in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse. He checked in with his teammates, chatted with the new shortstop Javier Baez and took the field for practice.
Schoop, for the first time in his Tigers career, was not late for spring training. In years past, work visa issues — the downside of signing one-year deals late in the offseason — delayed travel plans from Curacao.
The 30-year-old second baseman signed a two-year contract extension last Augustkeeping him in Detroit through the 2023 season. In doing so, he knew his destination for 2022 and received his work visa with plenty of time to spare.
Now it’s time to work.
“We’re trying to get to the playoffs and win baseball games,” Schoop said. “I’m very excited for this season and I’m trying to win as many games as possible. Last year I feel like we did well. We have more things to prove. I feel ready for this season to help our team qualify for the playoffs.”
A productive 2021 season propelled Schoop to his contract extension, worth a total of $15 million. The nine-year MLB veteran hit .278 with 22 homers, 37 walks and 133 strikeouts in 156 games.
The 2022 season marks Schoop’s third straight year with the Tigers, having signed two one-year contracts for 2020 and 2021. This time around, he plays alongside Baez, the 2020 National League Golden Glove winner at shortstop.
“He’s a really good baseball player,” Schoop said. “I played with him in the Fall League (Arizona) (in 2012), so we already know each other. We played on the same team. I played against him a lot. Everyone sees what he can do, and everyone knows what he can bring in the future. He brings a lot to this team.”
During the offseason, Schoop kept tabs on the Tigers’ shortstop search.
There were five players in the mix: Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor’s Story. Seager (10 years, $325 million) and Semien (seven years, $175 million) signed with the Texas Rangers, while Baez signed a six-year, $140 deal with the Tigers.
Correa and Story remain unsigned.
“I didn’t check every day,” Schoop said. “But he popped up on my screen. I knew there were a lot of good shortstops out there, but Javy, I think, was the best choice for us. I’m excited. I’ve played with him before. I know what he can do. Javy is going to help this team a lot.”
Tigers manager AJ Hinch agrees.
“He’s one of the elite,” Hinch said. “It really is that simple. We wanted an elite shortstop, and we had one who wanted to be here. It was important, that Javy bought into what we were doing. He’s a player winner.”
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With Baez in the fold, the Tigers expect their inner midfield defense to improve. A key part of the formula is Schoop, a career second baseman who has made 103 starts at first base in 2021, up from 38 at his natural position.
Schoop switched positions because the Tigers lacked a proper first baseman. Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera played 44 games in the infield; the Tigers were watching his health closely.
“It’s all about winning, so anything I can do to help my team win, I’m ready,” Schoop said. “If I still have to play first, I will. If I have to play second, I will. I just want to win games, be there and play every day. That’s all.”
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Defensive alignment depends on first baseman Spencer Torkelsonthe No. 1 pick overall in the 2020 draft and, according to MLB pipeline, the No. 4 prospect in baseball. If Torkelson makes the opening day roster, Schoop will play second base.
If Torkelson returns to Triple-A Toledo, Schoop starts the season at first base.
“Everyone wants him on the team,” Schoop said. “He’s going to help us a lot. He’s a good stick in the lineup, so Torkelson, hopefully he can make the team.”
outfielder Riley Green, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019 and the No. 4 prospect in baseball, could also make the Opening Day roster. Torkelson hit .267 with 30 homers in 121 minor league games last season; Greene hit .301 with 24 homers in 124 games.
“They’re really good, Tork and Riley. They’re really good players,” Schoop said. “They’ve already shown what they can do, but hopefully they can get some attention and be successful from the start. They’re going to be really good for us with really good energy going forward in the season.”
Tigers add three arms
“I really enjoyed my time here last year,” Hutchison said. “Just be ready to go, be myself and do my thing.”
Diaz, 27, launched four MLB seasons for the San Diego Padres. He posted a 3.64 ERA with 19 walks and 46 strikeouts in 42 innings out of the bullpen in 2021. Rosso, 25, pitched eight innings in seven games for the Philadelphia Phillies in the year last, recording a 5.63 ERA with three walks and seven strikeouts. He has two years of experience in the majors.
The most notable name – Hutchison – appeared in nine games (two starts) for the Tigers last season, part of his six-year MLB career. The 31-year-old had a 2.11 ERA with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts in 21⅔ innings.
“Coming back to the big leagues (for the first time since 2019) was my goal last year, and I was able to do that,” Hutchison said. “I just keep trying to build on that, be myself and shoot well.”