The easy thing to say here is just resign Jonathan Schoop to a multiyear deal and problem solved for the Detroit Tigers. That is the obvious choice but so far during the Chris Ilitch era, there have been no guarantees.
For the Detroit Tigers, there has been just one second baseman in the last 20 years that have come up through the system and given Detroit more than one season of average WAR production (2.0 is considered average) who the team actually developed and brought along. The Tigers recently have had issues filling the position since fan-favorite Ian Kinsler was traded in 2017.
The history of second base for the Tigers has been quite interesting since Lou Whitaker retired. Let’s a trip back down memory lane and revisit the last 20 years of Tigers baseball at second base with the min of at least 200 at-bats in the given season to see how we got here. The bold ones are Tigers who were developed within and listing their WAR for the season.
- 2000-Easley: 4.0 bWAR
- 2001-Easley: 2.7 bWAR
- 2002-Easley: 0.5 bWAR
- 2003-Warren Morris: 1.7 bWAR
- 2004-Infante: 2.2 bWAR
- 2005-Polanco: 4.3 bWAR
- 2006-Polanco: 1.9 bWAR
- 2007-Polanco: 6.1 bWAR (All-Star)
- 2008-Polanco: 4.4 bWAR (lead the team in WAR)
- 2009-Polanco: 2.5 bWAR
- 2010-Rhymes/Guillen/ Sizemore/ Raburn/Worth. Combined bWAR: 4.6
- 2011-Santiago 1.6 bWAR
- 2012-Infante: 0.7 bWAR
- 2013-Infante: 2.6 bWAR
- 2014-Kinsler: 5.1 bWAR (All-Star)
- 2015-Kinsler: 4.7 bWAR
- 2016-Kinsler: 5.6 bWAR
- 2017-Kinsler: 2.8 bWAR
- 2018-Machado/Lugo/Kozma/Goodrum/Rodriguez. Combined bWAR: -3.1
- 2019-Beckham/Harrison/Harold Castro/Goodrum/Rodriquez. Combined bWAR: -0.7
I included 2010, 2018, and 2018 as combined bWAR because those were the seasons Detroit was rotating second baseman quite a bit. Although in 2010 it was primary Guillen and Rhymes who got the bulk of the starts, I wanted to include Danny Worth and Ryan Raburn.
Raburn got a majority of starts in left field but was brought up as a second base prospect. With Sizemore, Rhymes, and Raburn, all three were college guys that were brought up through the system with Raburn and Sizemore both being fifth-round draft picks, Rhymes, a 27th rounder, and Worth being a second-round draft pick.
Of that entire list of names, only Omar Infante was able to pull off an average WAR season and he did that twice. If it wasn’t for Randy Smith’s trade of Greg Gohr for Damion Easley, the post Lou Whitaker era could have looked uglier. In fact, the last three Tigers to make the All-Star team at second base were via trade with Easley, Polanco, and Kinsler.
Dave Dombrowski’s trade for Plácido Polanco in exchange for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez may go down as one of the best trades in Detroit Tigers history and brought stability again to second base. You can argue trading Infante to the Cubs for Jacque Jones was a waste of time but at the time, with Guillen at short, there was no room for Infante.
The reason why I bring up the past is because if you look at the internal candidates that reside on the 40-man roster and the Tigers depth chart, there is no real clear cut winner. As I mentioned in my previous article, the Tigers are not giving reps to Isaac Paredes at second base or at least not yet, even in games that Detroit has been trailing. Your 40-man choices are the following:
- Niko Goodrum (not going to happen, has played well at short but has had time at second base)
- Harold Castro (brought up as a second baseman, utility role player at this point)
- Sergio Alcantara
- Willi Castro
- Isaac Paredes
- Zack Short
What about down in the minors? Per FanGraphs depth chart:
- Kody Clemens
- Jack Kenley
- Andre Lipcius
- Jose King
- Cole Peterson
The players in the minors have lost an entire season of playing competitive ball with the exception of Kody Clemens, who was playing in the Constellation Energy League this summer. He spoke to myself and Chris Brown about it a few weeks back. He is not in camp which is rather strange and because he spent time in Erie, the assumption would be he would be in Toledo if there was a minor league season or be called up to Toledo. Of the ones listed except for Cole Peterson and Clemens, all are in either low-A ball or high-A ball.
Spend the damn money
With Jordan Zimmermann’s contract coming off the books this winter, Schoop doesnt turn 29 until next month and I believe a two-year deal will bridge the gap for the Tigers at second base if they do not decide to use an internal candiate like Paredes or Willi Castro. He has given Detroit a wRC+ of 113, a bWAR of 1.0, and his defensive has him ranked second overall in all of baseball in terms of FanGraphs WAR at 3.0.
Schoop is giving Detroit production and a steady presence in the lineup. Whatever Ron Gardenhire has placed him in the lineup, Schoop has gone out there and done what was asked.
Detroit should look into their recent history as a sign to stick what works for second base until they can develop their own that will be around for a while. While we may never see another Lou Whitaker again, it would be nice to see the list of Detroit Tigers homegrown players at second base grow again.
To put things on another historical perspective, Lou Whitaker’s All-Star season in 1987 was the last time Detroit has had a homegrown talent at second base. Before Whitaker, you have to go back to 1938 to the Mechanical Man, Charlie Gehringer, to be the last home grown All-Star at second base.