Every other team in MLB has spent the offseason locking up their good young players, or at least that’s how it seems to this Orioles fan forlornly looking at the O’s own lack of extensions. It’s Manny Machado who gets all the attention about that, understandably, but we’re talking a little bit below his price range today. Recent contract extensions may be more of a blueprint for Jonathan Schoop.
The two that are interesting for the Orioles, if they were to choose to try to extend Schoop, are the contracts recently by the Rangers with second basemen Rougned Odor, and by the Indians to third baseman Jose Ramirez.
Odor received a six year contract worth $49.5 million guaranteed from the Rangers. His contract includes a club option for a seventh year, making the total possible value $60 million. Ramirez, on the other hand, is in line for just four guaranteed years from the Indians at $26 million, although two club option years can take the total up to $50 million over six years.
Let’s just assume for this post that the Orioles should, and want to, extend Schoop. You may not think they should and they may not actually want to. That’s OK. But if they do go down that road, those are the contracts they might be considering.
No two players are exactly alike, and so neither are any two contracts. The Rangers gave two horses to Odor with his contract. Really. More relevant to baseball, Schoop won’t be like either of those two players because they’re not the same age or at the same level of MLB service time.
Both Odor and Ramirez only had two years of service time entering the 2017 season. That means that they were not yet eligible for arbitration. Schoop is in his first year of arbitration, with he and the team settling on a contract of about $3.5 million for the season. Schoop is 25, where Ramirez is still just 24 and Odor is only 23.
Age matters. The younger player is going to have more prime years remaining, assuming everyone involved follows something like the standard expected age curve. Without even getting into performance, that is something that may tilt the balance towards Odor and Ramirez deserving more money than Schoop.
Performance also matters. Young players who have been better in the past are going to have a better argument that they will be better in the future and they will get more money too.
In that way, Ramirez has the edge, because he just put together a 2016 season in which he batted .312/.363/.462. Whether you like bWAR (3.9) or fWAR (4.8), Ramirez was pretty good. He had a solid on-base percentage, respectable power, and OK defense.
More importantly for this discussion, Ramirez was better than Odor, whose .271/.296/.502 batting line and below average defense had him at 2.4 bWAR and 2.0 fWAR.
So where does Schoop fit in? He lines up much closer to Odor than Ramirez, at least based on 2016 performance. Schoop turned in a .267/.298/.454 batting line. He walked at the same low rate and struck out at about the same rate as Odor. Schoop rates better defensively, so despite Odor having eight more homers, their value is a wash - Schoop at 2.1 bWAR or 2.0 fWAR. They even play the same position.
If it seems weird that Ramirez is getting so much less guaranteed money than Odor, that’s probably because Ramirez’s 2016 came more out of nowhere. Odor was a well-regarded prospect prior to his 2014 debut, ranking in the 40-50 range. Now that Odor has started to achieve his potential, that’s less of a surprise and perhaps a safer bet to be repeated or exceeded.
Ramirez does not bring that pedigree with him, and his 2016 performance looks more like an aberration. He was never a top prospect. Could he keep being as good as he was in 2016? Maybe. But if you look back at his 2015, that was not so good, with Ramirez batting .219/.291/.340 in 97 games. What’s more, Ramirez’s 2016 may have been fueled by BABIP luck, a .333 compared to a .298 career mark.
Schoop was never as well-regarded of a prospect as Odor, but he at least slipped into the back end of top 100 prospect lists before coming up to MLB. This is another way where it looks like he compares more to Odor than Ramirez.
With that in mind, the yearly breakdown for the Odor extension looks like this:
- $2 million signing bonus and the horses
- 2017: $1 million (last pre-arbitration year)
- 2018: $3 million (arb. #1)
- 2019: $7.5 million (arb. #2)
- 2020: $9 million (arb. #3)
- 2021: $12 million (free agent year #1)
- 2022: $12 million (free agent year #2)
- 2023: $13.5 million team option with $3 million buyout (free agent year #3)
Maybe Schoop deserves less money than Odor since he’s never hit 30+ homers, though their overall WAR is similar for almost exactly the same number of career games. Schoop is already getting more money in 2017 than Odor will get next year, so he will get raises from a higher point than Odor negotiated. It would take a very good season for Schoop to reach $7.5 million next year.
Schoop will be 28 years old in his first season of a free agent contract, if he makes it to that point. That’s still fairly young. A team would still expect to get at least a couple of years of the prime of Schoop.
Let’s just suppose that the Orioles offered Schoop a four year extension starting in 2018, $43.5 million guaranteed (Odor’s years 3-6) with a fifth year option kicking the total to $54 million.
Would you sign that if you were Schoop? Would you want the Orioles to make him that offer? Maybe you’re not ready to take the plunge on multiple $12 million seasons on Schoop.
The “I like our guys” philosophy has its limits and Schoop, as much as he is adored in Birdland, does only have a .283 career on-base percentage. On the other hand, he’s an acceptable defender at second base and he could have 30+ dinger seasons in his future. Good baseball players aren’t getting cheaper.
A wild card in the Orioles negotiating with Schoop could be his decision last year to take an up-front payment of about $5 million from the company Fantex in exchange for 10% of Schoop’s future earnings.
This gives Schoop a little more leverage by virtue of already having some money banked. He can roll the dice that he will get to a bigger payday later, and if he never does, he’s already made about $10 million from playing baseball. That’s not too shabby.
If the Orioles want to extend Schoop, they’ll be looking at something in the ballpark of Rougned Odor money. Maybe they can get Schoop for a little less, if he really wants to stick around here. Players like him don’t grow on trees.
And there’s always that 1% hope that Machado might be inclined to keep the Orioles in the picture for his future if his buddy Schoop is locked up for a few more years. They shouldn’t extend Schoop at any price for that reason, but hey, if they get the right deal, it can’t hurt.
There’s not much sign the Orioles are looking to extend Schoop or anybody else. The only player we heard vague rumblings about over the offseason was Chris Tillman. That went nowhere, and with Tillman’s shoulder uncertainty, that’s possibly for the best. Eventually, if they want to keep some more of their guys, they’re going to have to start paying up.