Just when you thought they were done, David Stearns pulled off another one.
The Brewers added a final piece to their deadline makeover on Tuesday, acquiring second baseman Jonathan Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for infielder Jonathan Villar and prospects Luis Ortiz and Jean Carmona. After every indication pointed towards the Brewers going for a pitcher, they decided to double-down on solving the offensive black hole that has been their middle infield this season.
Schoop started the 2018 season in a significant slump. He was hitting .197/.242/.345 when the calendar flipped from June to July. However, the past month has been an entirely different story, as the version of Schoop that was a 2017 AL All-Star seemingly returned. In July, he hit a red-hot .360/.356/.700 with 9 home runs. Given the package the Brewers gave the Orioles, it is apparent that Stearns and Co. believes 2017 Schoop has returned.
What makes this move so interesting is that the Brewers seemingly made their expected “second base move” last week when they acquired Mike Moustakas and subsequently shifted Travis Shaw to second. However, something more interesting than simply acquiring another run-of-the-mill second baseman may be brewing here. While the Brewers reinvented the rebuild in 2017, they may be looking at a more ambitious project over the next two months by deviating towards a radically untraditional roster composition and using Schoop and the rest of their infield group in a variety of ways.
The most obvious role Schoop fills is as a platoon-partner for Travis Shaw. Shaw has been miserable against left-handed pitching this year, hitting .214/.287/.250. With Mike Moustakas playing third base and hitting lefties adequately, Schoop slots in at second, providing a huge offensive upgrade over a right-handed option like Tyler Saladino or Hernan Perez.
The Brewers didn’t give up prospects for a platoon partner, however. This leads me to believe that the Brewers will deploy Schoop at shortstop somewhat frequently, sacrificing defense for offense. This is where the Brewers’ management will get radical. While Schoop played a fair amount of shortstop in the minor leagues, the vast majority of his MLB career has been spent at second base. By playing two players (Shaw and Schoop) away from their natural positions, the Brewers could take a significant hit on defense. It is worth noting that the Brewers’ pitching sports the 3rd lowest groundball rate in the NL at 42.6%, and given that team deploys infield shifts regularly, sticking to traditional positions likely has decreased in importance to this front office. They see the offensive upside of Schoop as outweighing the defensive liability that could come with mixing up the infield.
The Brewers could also get creative with their in-game strategy with Schoop. Say the Brewers jump out to a quick 5-0 lead after 3 innings. With the offense already handled, Craig Counsell could leave Shaw or Moustakas in at third base, shift Schoop from shortstop to second, and insert Orlando Arcia at shortstop to provide an extra degree of defense for the rest of the game. While it is obviously not traditional to substitute out a starter for defensive purposes in the 4th inning, few things that this team does are traditional. From calling hitters their “position player unit” as to emphasize their versatility and inter-changeability, to calling pitchers “out-getters”, it is clear that David Stearns has instilled a revolutionary spirit in this team.
While I can’t tell you exactly how the Brewers will utilize Jonathan Schoop, I can say one thing with certainty: watching how this saga unfolds down the stretch will be one heck of a ride.