Whether or not the Orioles work out a contract extension with Manny Machado is one of the bigger questions for this offseason. He is not the only player the O's might want to extend, though, and according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, they have started talking an extension with a different young player: Jonathan Schoop.
Schoop's good friendship with Machado is well-documented and I think we've all seen hopeful Orioles fans believing that an extension with Schoop might be something to help nudge Machado into wanting to stick around a little bit more, too. Whether that's the case or not, an extension with Schoop is interesting and potentially worthwhile in its own right.
Although Schoop isn't one of the players who will become a free agent following the 2018 season, his time with the O's before being a free agent only goes one year longer. He'll be a free agent following the 2019 season.
That sounds like a long time from now, and it is, but it's only two more baseball seasons away. The time is now for the O's to decide whether they want Schoop to be a part of their long-term future and if so, to make him a fair offer to keep him around for more than just the next couple of years. Without a contract extension, if the O's stumble again in 2018, Schoop's name would start to pop up in trade rumors along with all the rest.
Don't get too excited about this idea of a Schoop extension yet, though, because while Morosi started out saying this:
Sources: #Orioles, All-Star 2B Jonathan Schoop have begun extension talks. Schoop is coming off a career offensive season and is eligible for free agency after ’19. Any deal likely would need to be north of Jean Segura’s 5-year, $70M contract. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2017
...within ten minutes, he tweeted an addendum:
On Jonathan Schoop: Separate source denies anything of substance has been discussed between the parties regarding an extension. If any contact has occurred, it remains preliminary.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2017
Baseball rumors are weird, which is why I maintain the default response to say that probably nothing will happen. It's not uncommon to see two different reporters offer different opinions on a question, but seeing one reporter cite multiple sources and then contradict himself within ten minutes is a bit of a head-scratcher.
A long enough time elapsed between the two tweets that the second one seems to have been the result of some other person reading or hearing about the first tweet and reaching out to him to say to pump the brakes.
Who are the people who told Morosi, apparently overstating the truth, that the two sides have begun extension talks? Who is the additional party who prompted that second tweet? Someone with the team? Schoop's agent? Somebody else? What is actually going on? We don't have any idea and maybe Morosi doesn't either.
Schoop is coming off a breakout 2017 season in which he posted a .293/.338/.503 batting line. Those were career highs, by far, in all three categories there. Schoop also hit 32 home runs while increasing his walk rate. As he was just 25 this year, it's fair to conclude that this season, where he was worth 5.1 bWAR, could represent his talent level for the next several seasons.
As Schoop heads towards his second arbitration-eligible season, he will get a nice bump up from his 2017 salary of $3.475 million. The folks at MLB Trade rumors estimate that Schoop will more than double that salary for 2018 with a $9.1 million figure. Making the All-Star team gets you paid in arbitration.
If Schoop continues to play as well as he did this year, there would be another nice jump in his future for the year after that. He's going to get paid a lot eventually. The only question is who will do it and when. But it could be to the team's benefit to lock him up and to his benefit to get guaranteed money now. Whatever dollar amount it would have taken to sign him long-term before this year has surely increased.
Morosi's use of the Segura contract as something that a Schoop contract should exceed makes sense. The Mariners signed Segura to the extension back in June as he was in the middle of his fifth big league season. That's what Schoop will be entering next year.
The Segura contract tops out at $14.25 million per year, which he will be paid each year from 2019-2022. His 2018 salary of $9 million is similar to what Schoop is estimated to be getting next year anyway.
Segura's contract came after a breakout 2016 campaign, with Segura starting out hot in April and May of this season as well. Schoop has more power than Segura, a better big league track record, and he's more than a year and a half younger than the Mariners shortstop. All of that adds up to more dollars.
If the Orioles are really serious about trying to lock up Schoop, this won't be the last that we hear of it. If they're not serious, then Morosi's second tweet saying things are "preliminary" will end up being the final word of the story.
Early last December, the Orioles were said to be in "preliminary" talks about an extension with Chris Tillman. Safe to say it is for the better that those never got any farther than that. The situation with Schoop should be different, though. There aren't any questions about his health. He's played 162 and 160 games the past two seasons. Tillman was on the way to a PRP injection when those talks started last year.
What do you think about the O's and a Schoop extension? Is now the time to pounce? Would you rather they wait? Or do you not want to see them keep him at all?