Chicago Cubs have been linked with a trade for Whit Merrifield to join Javier Baez in the middle of their infield. Despite a reluctance to spend big, free agency and Jonathan Schoop might provide a better solution to their second base issue.
Schoop is coming off a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Minnesota Twins and will likely be available for a deal in a similar range.
Merrifield is the superior player. An underrated, versatile ballplayer with superb contact skills and great speed. After signing a team friendly contract, however, Merrifield has become one of the most valuable trade chips in the Majors. The haul to lure him away from Kansas City would be immense. The Royals’ demands for Merrifield at the trade deadline were deemed ‘extraordinarily high’ – he’s owed $21 million over the next four seasons.
There’s a question about whether the Cubs have the pieces to pull off a Merrifield trade. Kyle Schwarber may well need to be included in the deal. Adbert Alzolay and Brennen Davis are two names that fit with what the Royals need, though they would likely ask for Nico Hoerner and Miguel Amaya.
Schoop would allow the Cubs to retain all of those players. After a difficult 2018, the 28-year-old found form again as part of the destructive Twins line-up. Schoop’s OPS+ of 102 might not leap off his Baseball Reference page, but in a pretty weak free agent group at second base, he might just be the best option on a one-year deal.
Chicago ranked 25th in MLB in wins above average from second base, per BR. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are clearly focusing on that weakness this offseason and are working under strict budget restrictions. They wouldn’t need to break the bank for Schoop, and it allows them to retain prospects that could be dealt for a centre fielder like Starling Marte or to add to a bullpen that was inconsistent in 2019.
This roster needs work. Merrifield would be a great addition, but Schoop is the sensible alternative who comes with limited risk on a one-year pact.