CLEVELAND — Jonathan Schoop went into last week’s Trade Deadline as seemingly one of the most likely Tigers to leave. Instead, he’ll be staying around potentially through 2023.
Detroit announced on Saturday that it agreed to a two-year contract extension with Schoop, making him a veteran cornerstone of the club’s effort to vault back into playoff contention.
Terms were not announced, but the $15 million deal will pay Schoop $7.5 million in each of the next two seasons with no deferrals, according to a source. Schoop can opt out of the contract after next season if he so chooses.
It’s the first contract extension the Tigers have reached with a player before free agency since Miguel Cabrera signed just before the 2014 season. J.D. Martinez signed a two-year deal before the 2016 season, but that covered his final two years of arbitration before free agency.
“I feel really good here, I feel comfortable, and I want to stay here,” Schoop said. “I thank [general manager] Al [Avila] and thank [manager] A.J. [Hinch] for the chance. I’m really happy. This is one of the best days of my life.”
Though Schoop has been with the Tigers since the 2020 season, he has been on a pair of one-year contracts. He went into free agency last offseason with Detroit uncertain about bringing him back before the two sides reached a one-year, $4.5 million contract just before Spring Training.
Schoop was a late arrival to camp due to travel issues, which led to a slow start to this season. He was batting .197 on May 14, then went into a midseason tear that slugged him not just into All-Star consideration, but also the Tigers’ long-term plans as Detroit rebounded from its own slow start.
“We feel he’s a pretty important reason why we’re turning this [season] around and we’re winning games,” Avila said.
Just as important to Hinch was Schoop’s leadership in a clubhouse that grew younger around him with Minor League callups.
“I love Jonathan,” Hinch said. “He’s easy to write into the lineup every day. You can rely on him. He loves to play. But more importantly, he’s a great influence. When your better players want to be a part of what you’re doing and want to stay here, it’s really easy for a manager to fall in love with the guy.
“There’s a consistency to him and what he brings every day. He makes me smile every day, he makes me laugh. I push him and he responds by asking for more and wanting to do more.”
Schoop changed agents during the season and hired Scott Boras, who’s historically known for preferring his clients test the free-agent market even if they ultimately want to stick with their current team. His versatility as a right-side infielder this year, along with the ability to play third base from earlier in his career, was expected to be part of his resume on the market.
However, Schoop knew where he wanted to be, and decided he didn’t want another run at free agency.
“Scott’s one of the best in the game,” Schoop said. “We sat down and discussed. I told him I want to be here. This is what I want to do. So if we can do it now, why wait until the offseason?”
Schoop’s steadfastness made a difference. The Tigers, too, conceivably could have waited until season’s end and pursued a trade with a goal of bringing him back in the offseason. But with a limited market and marginal return, they decided to hold onto Schoop and work out a contract.
“We’ve been talking back and forth for several weeks,” Avila said. “I always felt we were going to get this done. I’ve gotta say that Jonathan has really put forth his own efforts to make sure he stays here.”
Schoop’s versatility helped him remain a fit in the Tigers’ plans as they await the arrival of their next wave of prospects. Top prospect Spencer Torkelson could push his way into Detroit’s plans as soon as next season, either at third or first base, while Kody Clemens could be among several youngsters battling for a role at second. Schoop could shift to first on a regular basis or move around the infield.
“I’m thrilled, because as I’ve said, we’re building off of this,” Hinch said. “And Jonathan being here, not only now but in the future, helps us identify exactly how to continue to make this team better. We got better today for next year and the years beyond this by committing to him, and him committing to us. As a manager, I love that consistency.”