Cleveland — The Tigers’ signing Jonathan Schoop to a two-year extension Saturday was rare on a couple of levels.
One, it’s not something the Tigers have done much of in recent years. The last true extension was to Miguel Cabrera before the 2014 season. It’s rare, too, when an extension, at least on the surface, seems so equally beneficial to both the player and the team.
When Schoop announced he’d hired Scott Boras to be his agent earlier this year, it seemed to indicate his desire to test the open market this winter. But Schoop might’ve gotten an early read on his market value leading up to the trade deadline and realized it might be another long winter with another one-year deal coming at the end of it.
“Scott’s one of the best in the game,” Schoop said. “We sat down and discussed it. 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?”
And Boras did his job, too. The Tigers gave Schoop the security of two years — $7.5 million for both 2022 and 2023 — and also his freedom to opt-out and test free agency after the 2022 season if he wanted to.
It’s a win-win for Schoop.
And for the Tigers, they were able lock up a vital piece of their immediate future at a reasonable price ahead of whatever uncertainties and changes might come with a new collective bargaining agreement this off-season.
“It’s a great step for us to keep players here we can build with,” manager AJ Hinch said. “One of the things I ask as a manager is you be on board and I ask that you want to be here. Jonathan took a great step forward in solidifying our lineup and giving us something to build from.
“We’re in the building stage. We want to add to that.”
Schoop’s presence doesn’t block any prospect’s ascension or slow their timetable to the big leagues. The flexibility of his contract and his positional flexibility assures that.
If Spencer Torkelson is ready to make his debut at first base at some point next season, Schoop can play second or third.
It also helps narrow the focus for general manager Al Avila this offseason, where presumably the top priority will be to sign a shortstop.
“Jonathan being here, not only now but in the future, helps us identify exactly how to continue to make this team better,” Hinch said. “We got better today and we got better for next year and the years beyond this by committing to him, and him committing to us.”
It is also a step toward validating president and CEO Christopher Ilitch’s vow last week to pursue more high-end, proven talent this offseason.
“Jonathan Schoop’s presence on our team, it matters to us,” Hinch said. “Having Al and ownership step up and lock him up prior to free agency sends a great message to that clubhouse and it sends great message to our fans that we are building something special.”
Baseball is a team game, but at its core, it is a singular competition between batter and pitcher.
And there were some intense, heart-pumping, game-on-the-line confrontations in the Tigers 2-1 win over the Indians Saturday night. Two of the best came in the sixth inning.
Michael Fulmer was brought into a 2-0 game with two on and one out. The data strongly favored Fulmer’s ability to get a ground ball from Indians hitter Amed Rosario, and he in fact got a ground ball.
But it was a swinging bunt, unplayable, infield single, bases loaded. And coming up were Jose Ramirez, who was 5 for 20 with two home runs off Fulmer, and Franmil Reyes, who had three home runs in six at-bats off Fulmer.
“When Rosario came up, I was trying to give Fulmer a little wriggle room before the big at-bat — which was Ramirez,” Hinch said. “I knew he was going to get that ground ball. I felt good about it. He just hit it too soft and got on base.
“That set the table for the biggest pitcher-batter confrontation of the night to that point.”
Catcher Eric Haase after the game called it a “pick-your-poison” moment. They weren’t going to give in to Ramirez. Better to walk him and keep a one-run lead than give him a change to flip the score.
They felt better about righty-righty matchup with Reyes.
Of the six pitches Fulmer threw to Ramirez, a switch-hitter batting lefty, five were hard, nasty sliders.
“One thing I’ve learned about Michael these last few outings is that he can really get left-handed hitters out,” Hinch said. “That hard slider down and in has been impossible for those guys to hit.”
Ramirez worked the count full. He had to be expecting Fulmer to throw his bread-and-butter 97-mph two-seamer. Instead, he got a 94-mph slider and popped it up to shallow left.
Fulmer then dispatched Reyes on a hard ground ball to a perfectly-positioned Harold Castro at second base.
“With Reyes in there, that’s not a good feeling at all given how he can change the game and the success he’s had against Fulmer,” Hinch said. “It’s a tough spot, but Fulmer is also one of our best. So at that point, it’s a lesson in managing you learn over time — that situation is just as important as saving him for the eighth or ninth.
“That was just as much as save as what Gregory Soto did (in the ninth).”
Around the horn
Hinch said utility man Niko Goodrum (calf) will be activated off the injured list on Tuesday. Hinch said a decision will be made on Monday who to send back to Toledo.
… Miguel Cabrera, who is two home runs shy of 500 for his career, was not in Sunday’s lineup against the Indians, part of a planned day off for the slugger.
… Left-hander Robbie Ross, Jr., who had been pitching at Toledo, announced he was retiring after 13 years in professional baseball. He pitched parts of six seasons in the big leagues.