Contender status attracted Schumaker to Reds
Versatile veteran has experience at second base, all three outfield positions
CINCINNATI -- A free agent, Skip Schumaker has played roles both large and small on contending teams the last few years and wanted very much to be part of that some more.
Ultimately, that and some other factors made the Reds an attractive destination for the utility player. On Tuesday, Schumaker and Cincinnati finalized a two-year, $5 million contract just over a week after they agreed to terms.
Schumaker, 33, spent most of his nine-year big league career with the Cardinals, the Reds' main rival in the National League Central. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, then with the Cardinals, gave Schumaker his professional start by drafting him in the fifth round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
"The first thing I wanted to do was sign with a team that had a really good chance to win," Schumaker said. "The Reds have been that way, one of the best teams in the National League for the last three or four years. I knew that division really well. ... It was just a really good fit for me and I'm really excited about the opportunity."
Schumaker will make $2 million in 2014 and $2.5 million in 2015. There is a $2.5 million club option for 2016 with a $500,000 buyout. He is the second free agent to join the Reds this month. On Nov. 12, catcher Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $2.275 million contract.
To make room for Schumaker on the 40-man roster, outfielder Derrick Robinson was designated for assignment. Robinson batted .255 in 102 games as a rookie in 2013. He was called up the first time after Ryan Ludwick went on the disabled list after Opening Day.
Schumaker played for the Dodgers last season and batted .263 with two home runs, 30 RBIs and a .332 on-base percentage in 125 games. Over his career, he has a slash line of .285/.344/.372 with 25 homers and 241 RBIs.
A left-handed hitter, Schumaker is a career .300 hitter with a .357 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching and a .211 hitter with a .280 OBP vs. lefties.
Schumaker said his decision came down to the Reds and one other unspecified playoff-caliber team.
"I didn't want it to drag. I've never been a free agent before," Schumaker said. "I didn't know how this was all going to work. I'm not a guy that likes to sit around and wait. If something came up that was going to be good with a chance to win, then I was going to take it."
Although not known for defense, Schumaker is versatile and could give the Reds' bench a boost, as he has played 456 career games at second base, 191 games in left field, 159 games in center field and 157 games in right field. He also pitched in two games last season for the Dodgers.
Schumaker could bring veteran experience in center field, especially if prospect Billy Hamilton winds up replacing free agent Shin-Soo Choo. There have also been widespread rumors that All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips could be traded. However, it would seem unlikely that Schumaker was signed to play a regular spot.
"They haven't talked to me about the role," Schumaker said. "I'm not going to assume anything other than that I will be off the bench, kind of what my role has been the last couple of years in the Major Leagues. I'm not sure why it would be too much different -- giving guys days off and that type of thing."
Schumaker has 30 games worth of playoff experience and was a member of the Cardinals' 2011 World Series championship team. He doesn't care where he plays in Cincinnati.
"I like to win. I'm not going to lie to you," Schumaker said. "That's what I'm used to. I'm used to being on playoff teams -- teams that have a really good chance of being in the World Series. I take pride in that. I like to play all different spots. I don't really have a particular one I like the most. I just like to play and be part of a really good team."