With all the talk about Pujols signing or not signing a contract extension, it’s easy for a guy like Skip Schumaker to get lost in the shuffle. After all, Skip tends to just show up, work hard, and do his job. He’ll probably never be a superstar, but he’s quietly made a nice career for himself in St. Louis. He’s a career .291 hitter (.349 obp) in 6 seasons with the Cardinals, and he’s definitely become a fan favorite. He’s sacrificed a lot by making the move from outfield to second base, and he’s handled the criticism of his defensive play there well.
He’s arbitration-eligible in 2012, so I’m inclined to wonder aloud whether or not the Cardinals plan to keep him around. If so, then I can’t help but wonder how he fits into their plans. Does he have to have a great year at 2B in 2011 to guarantee that he’ll be asked to return? With all the offseason talk about “middle infield upgrades”, will he even want to return?
For his sake, I hope he has a stellar year and is offered another multi-year deal. For the Cardinals’ sake, I hope he has a stellar year and is offered another multi-year deal. Why? It would represent a real homegrown success story. Skip just happens to be 100% Redbird – untainted by any other system. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2001, and he’s been with them ever since. He debuted in 2005, and he’s been a mainstay since September of 2007.
During his time in the big leagues, he’s managed to compile an unspectacular yet respectable .291/.349/.383/.732 batting line with 525 hits in 1983 plate appearances. He also boasts a modest career WAR total of 4.1 despite being converted to 2B. Even there, perception may be slow to catch up to reality as he did improve his dWar from -1.0 in 2009 to -0.2 in 2010. While his total dWAR does include some chances in the outfield in both seasons, it’s worth noting that his total number of chances at 2B increased from 544 in 2009 to 585 in 2010. If he can improve upon the 16 errors made, he might be in danger of becoming a better-than-average 2B. After all, he did rank 3rd in the NL for range factor at the position, so there is hope for the guy playing the 4 spot.
With all the recent chatter about late game defensive substitution planning, I’d like to point out the possibility that the team’s best defensive rightfielder is probably the guy standing at second base. That may not say much for the team’s defensive options in right field, but it does say a lot about Skip. He’s good enough to be an everyday player for a lot of teams, and he can legitimately play 2B and OF at a major league level. I know that I appreciate that, but will the team appreciate it when it comes time to make a decision about Skip for 2012?
TIDBITS: Based on Skip’s 2011 salary of $2.7M and an “average” year, my guesstimate projection for his final arbitration year is between $3.5M and $4M. If he has a good defensive year and hits .300, the price goes up. To get a better estimate, wait until Kelly Johnson‘s contract details for 2011 are finalized, because he and Jeff Keppinger are good comparables for Skip (purely as a function of arbitration status).
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