Transaction Reaction: Twins Beef up Middle Infield Ahead of Winter Meetings

Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins addressed one of their primary weaknesses in advance of this week’s Winter Meetings in Las Vegas by adding a pair of middle infielders on one-year deals.

Both infielders have primarily spent their time in AL East, as the Twins inked second baseman Jonathan Schoop and utility man Ronald Torreyes to one-year deals.

The club announced both signings. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported that Torreyes will make $800,000 if he’s in the big leagues, and various sources reported that Schoop will earn $7.5 million next season with incentives that could push it over $8 million if reached.

Schoop was expected to earn roughly $10 million in arbitration before the Milwaukee Brewers — who acquired him for the stretch run from the Baltimore Orioles — non-tendered him. Torreyes, who has taken all but eight of his 615 big-league plate appearances with the Yankees, was also non-tendered — by the Cubs after being traded from New York — but actually still has four years of club control (through the 2022 season).

With Schoop, the Twins attacked a weakness in two interesting ways. They shopped the top of the second-base market — in terms of average annual value and player ceiling — but also the bottom of the barrel in terms of years.

That shoots a gaping hole into the “they’re cheap” narrative — though nevertheless, those people have persisted — but again bellies up to the bar of a one-year deal for a player rebuilding their value.

Schoop was an All-Star in 2017, when he hit .293/.338/.503. That’s awfully Brian Dozier-like — and included 32 home runs and 105 RBIs, to boot. He hasn’t exhibited those on-base skills as much in the past (.294 career OBP), but it still falls in line with his isolated discipline trends.

Isolated discipline, for those unfamiliar, is on-base percentage – batting average, and tends to be fairly stable for a player regardless of their batting average. In Schoop’s case, he hit .233 in 2018 and his OBP followed suit at .266 — a 33-point gap. In his All-Star 2017 season, the gap was 45 points — not terribly far from his career mark of 36.

So Schoop needs to hit about .270-.280 to post a league-average OBP — last year’s AL average was .318 — but he makes up for it with power and defense. And besides that, the AL as a whole got a line of .255/.319/.396 from second basemen. Schoop can match the first two and even in a down year can blow the third one out of the water.

For instance, he slugged .416 — 20 points clear of the AL average second baseman — across 131 games last year in his worst year since 2014.

Schoop has also only once posted a negative value defensively according to Fangraphs — a minus-0.6 in 2017 — and has hit 84 of his 107 career home runs to left field, 23 to center and just three to right.

Sounds an awful lot like the guy who just left Minnesota, frankly.

Schoop played for the Bert Blyleven-coached Netherlands team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, finishing fourth with a roster that featured MLBers Kenley Jansen, Andrelton Simmons, Schoop, Jurrickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts and Didi Gregorius as well as former Twins farmhands Loek van Mil, Tom Stuifbergen and Shairon Martis.

Hensley Meulens, who interviewed for the Twins managerial position this offseason, was the manager of that club.

But that’s not the only tournament Schoop is known for playing in. Schoop’s 2004 Little League World Series team — Willemstad, Curacao — won it all with a 5-2 win over Thousand Oaks, California. Willemstad had a 3-0 record in pool play, and then advanced to the final with a 9-8 win over Taiwan and a 4-0 win over Mexico.

Profar was also Schoop’s teammate on that squad, and here’s some video footage of the two playing together from that summer.

Torreyes has proven to be valuable in large part due to his versatility. He’s played significant time at each infield position besides first base as well as right field, and grades out positively by Fangraphs’ UZR metric across each spot.

Torreyes, who just turned 26 in September, is primarily a contact hitter with little discipline or power. He’s played roughly the equivalent of a full MLB season across his four big-league years, and has a .281/.310/.375 line with four homers, six triples and 30 doubles. Baseball Reference has that worth about plus-1.5 wins, while Fangraphs is even a little more positive at plus-1.7.

Torreyes should also help fill the role vacated by Eduardo Escobar in the clubhouse. He grew to cult-figure status with the Yankees, due to his work ethic, ability to play all over and also the relationship he developed with Aaron Judge.

One Yankees fan told Zone Coverage that when Torreyes wasn’t with the team, Judge hit a home run and high-fived the air where the diminutive infielder was supposed to be.

The best bet with Torreyes is that he’s insurance for Ehire Adrianza, who underwent shoulder surgery just after the end of the season, but he also has one more option left per Roster Resource, so he can be safely stashed at Rochester until needed if he doesn’t make the club.

One thing remains for sure: it’s unclear if Minneapolis will be able to handle the animal magnetism of a team that has both Torreyes and Willians Astudillo on it.

But I think we’re willing to risk it.

The Breakdown

Jonathan Schoop

  • Position: Second base
  • 2018 Numbers: .233/.266/.416 in 501 PA, 0.5 fWAR/0.1 bWAR
  • Career Numbers: .258/.294/.444 in 2,640 PA, 8.2 fWAR/11.5 bWAR
  • 2019 Salary: $7.5 million
  • Why it will work: The bar for a productive second baseman isn’t terribly high, and he plays good defense with some power. Could be revitalized by getting out of a bad situation in Baltimore, though that was also true when he was traded to Milwaukee, where he fell into the worst of funks (.202/.246/.331) and barely played in the playoffs.
  • Why it won’t: If his 2018 fade was indicative of something other than just an off year, which would be surprising heading into just his age-27 season. But bad years do happen — see Logan Morrison — and could again. Still, this deal made too much sense not to happen.

Ronald Torreyes

  • Position: Utility man
  • 2018 Numbers: .280/.294/.370 in 102 PA, 0.4 fWAR/0.3 bWAR
  • Career Numbers: .281/.310/.375 in 615 PA, 1.7 fWAR/1.5 bWAR
  • 2019 Salary: $800,000
  • Why it will work: Players like this are glue guys/25th men on really good teams.
  • Why it won’t: Adrianza stays healthy all year and the Twins don’t need Torreyes until 2020, instead. There isn’t any downside here.

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